Tech group, Assemblyman team up to provide computers

A family receives a new desktop computer on Aug. 27. Photo: Reece T. Williams

Nine students from local schools and universities received free desktop computers at the second annual TechFIN computer distribution at Assemblyman Michael Blake’s district office in Concourse Village on Aug. 27.

For some of them, this will mean owning a personal computer for the first time.

“Now I can pursue my career in a better way,” said Lisangel Herra, a graduate of Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, and a freshman at New York City College of Technology. “I can code whenever I want to. I want to be a programmer, so this is perfect.”

Ten-year-old Dmani Melville – a student at Harriet Tubman Charter School – said she’ll use her first-ever computer to spend extra time studying.

“I’m not so good at math, so this’ll help me with my math more,” she said. “I’ll be able to do research on it; it’ll help me with my studies, and I won’t have to ask people to use their stuff.”

TechFIN – Technology for Families in Need – and Blake first partnered in 2015 as part of MSNBC’s Growing Hope Campaign when the network traveled to the Bronx to highlight the borough’s growing focus on tech education. At the time, only three percent of New York City’s tech jobs were in the borough.

Blake and TechFIN partnered to combat what Nigel Frankson – TechFIN Chairman and Co-founder – calls the “digital divide.”

Frankson said he and co-founder Shadan Deleveaux were off-put by how frequently their jobs exchanged perfectly working computers for newer ones.

“In corporate America, they would rather replace your still-working computer than risk it breaking down on you at some point, and you losing production,” Franskon said. TechFIN encourages companies to donate computers they are not using. “We can repurpose the machines, and give kids form low-income backgrounds the opportunity to have a computer in their home; because that’s where a lot of learning takes place.”

Blake’s role in the partnership is to connect TechFIN with district schools, which identify students to receive the computers.

“They find an excelling student who may not have a computer at home,” Blake said. “Or, a student who may need a little bit of help, but still has that tech gap. We leave it to the schools to give us guidance on how they identify their talent.”

“Hopefully TechFIN continues to see the merit of the work so that we can continue to have sustained success,” Blake said. “We have 108 schools in our district. The need will be continual.”

Bronx LGJ graduate, and City Tech freshman computer engineering major, Eugene Aedai, said that he is saving up for a Mac, “but this will be helpful in the meantime.”

“Now I won’t have to argue with my sister to use the computer,” laughs Jade Cooper, a freshman Psychology major at City College of New York, and a Bronx LGJ graduate. “And two it just gives me an opportunity to focus on my schoolwork, and make sure that I’m able to do my best so I can be successful later on.”