A Houston nonprofit aims to tackle students’ digital divide through refurbished laptops

HOUSTONWhat’s the issue?

A large majority of students in the Houston-area are having a tough time keeping up with their school assignments. It’s not because they can’t do the work. Many of them don’t have a laptop or access to the internet.

Students are now at home and forced to learn online due to the coronavirus. Many families do not have a computer at home or internet service to complete required school assignments, causing a digital divide. Nearly 140,000 students don’t have access to a computer or laptop and 200,000 do not have a wireless internet connection, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

What’s being done to help?

Colin Dempsey and his small staff at Comp-U-Dopt are working hard to keep up with the demand for refurbished computers.

“I get at least a 100 phone calls and emails a day from parents who are desperate to find a way to connect their children,” said the executive director.

The Houston non-profit takes donated laptops and computers, clears and refurbishes them to get to a student in need through their lottery system.

We’ve had over 27,000 families apply for a computer lottery in just the past 2 weeks,” Dempsey said.

On Monday, Houston Rockets player Russell Westbrook and his “Why Not?” foundation stepped up to donate 650 laptops to Comp-U-Dopt to help bridge the divide

“He really wants to help out the students here in Houston who need this resource,” Dempsey said. “And we know in historically underserved communities here in Houston that the digital divide is even greater here and this crisis has really put a spotlight on that divide.”

How can families get a computer?

Dempsey said families that live in Harris County, don’t have a computer, has a child in K-12th grade, and makes an average of $50,000 can apply for a computer though a lottery system at https://www.compudopt.org/.

Anyone that would like to donate to the non-profit to help buy parts to refurbish the laptops and computers can do so at the same site.