COVID-19: Comp-U-Dopt Supplies Families with Tech for Home Education During Extreme Demand

Updated: Apr 17, 2020


Colin Dempsey from Comp-U-Dopt shares how the need for computers in under-resourced families has spiked in the last month due to at-home education. He shares insight on how children's learning has shifted during COVID-19 and what you can do to help.

"I do think in kind of this new paradigm of learning that we're all, we're all figuring out together that the Fall is going to look quite different and. . . I think we'll definitely see districts investing in technology for their students as well as for families"


Mentioned Resources:

Comp-U-Dopt

Zoom Conference Calls

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

Hello. This is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. And today I'm joined by Colin Dempsey with Comp-U-Dopt. And they are nonprofit that got started here in Houston that has an amazing opportunity and have been doing amazing work in the areas of getting under-resourced kids access to the internet through computers, the ability to do schoolwork through computers and, a recycle program. And so I'm really excited to hear about their programs. Thank you for joining us today.


Colin Dempsey:

Sorry. All right. Yeah. Thanks Tommy. Thanks for having us.


Tommy Rosson:

Tell me a little bit about Comp-U-Dopt and the background of how it got started.


Colin Dempsey:

Yeah. So Comp-U-Dopt is a local Houston nonprofit. We were founded here in 2007. Our mission is to provide technology access to education to underserved youth in the area. And that mission is kind of on hyperdrive right now, knowing all the need that exists out there in the community for students to get their hands on technology. During normal times we are giving out computers to students who don't have one at home after we refurbish the computers from corporate donations. Typically we give out about 2000 and 3000 computers a year, and have given out over 16,000 computers since 2007. Now though, we're averaging about a thousand computers a month to try and pick up the speed, pick up the pace, and get out as many computers as possible, as fast as possible to students who need them.


Tommy Rosson:

That's fascinating. I think you said, right now you have over 25,000 students on your wait list.


Colin Dempsey:

Yes. Yeah. They might a thousand unique families, so that's four or five students in each of those families who are needing a computer, we have parents emailing and calling us every day saying, I have just lost my job or I was furloughed or, I'm afraid that my student is falling behind and I really need this computer or this tool to make sure that they don't fall behind anymore. You know, everyone is kind of cooped up right now and stay in quarantine and staying home and without this tool, a lot of families aren't getting the education that they need.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. Tell me a little bit about the work you've done in Galveston and how that compares to the work you've done in Houston.


Colin Dempsey:

Yeah, so we were fortunate to be funded by the Moody Foundation on Galveston Island along with the country to provide computers to Galveston Island over the past five years. And in doing so, we have solved the digital divide on the Island. So whereas in Harris County had EverQuest for 25,000 computers, I've only had a request for about 150 computers on Galveston Island. And that's because families there know that they come to Comp-U-Dot to get a machine that they need. So we have a tech pantry there that meets the need of those couple hundred computers a year for families who are new to the Island or you know, technology, just like ours, breaks. We need to get it fixed or replaced. But I think that that speaks to the solvability of this problem that if we do attack it in times when we aren't all at home or in an emergency that we consult with felt like an invisible problem to a lot of people, is now coming to the forefront as an essential need.


Tommy Rosson:

Absolutely. Man. I know there's so many people at home families and parents at home now trying to help their kids be homeschooled with the public schools. And they're realizing you can't do school on a phone. You really need a little bit more than that. And especially if you don't have access to that, it's really, I mean, not only are many of these families under resource, but especially in this situation now all of a sudden the kid's education is going to be dramatically held back.


Colin Dempsey:

Right? Yeah. And it's something that we, our normal mission is technology access and education because we know it's about more than just a computer. I don't know how many parents have had to become the IT department of their household over the past couple of weeks to fix Zoom calls or figure out passwords or figure out how to connect the wifi or the Bluetooth or the microphone. And that's why we run our education programs, which are enrichment programs for after school or elementary, middle and high school students. To really get them to think that, you know, a computer is a tool. It matters what you do with it in order to be successful. And knowing that all of our jobs are going to involve technology in the future, not just in times when we're stuck at home and needing to use Zoom. But that, you know, if you are working on an Excel sheet or coding or whatever falls in between, you're going to need a computer, you're going to need the literacy skills to use it.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. That's great. So in this season that we're in, what are the biggest needs of Comp-U-Dopt for the next month?


Colin Dempsey:

Yeah, so our biggest need right now is incoming gifting kind or hardware donations from large companies. For instance, last week we had Motiva Enterprises donate 500 of their used equipment that is now been turned around and given out to kids. To refurbish that equipment, we need dollars, replacing keyboards and screens and power chargers, cost money. And so we're looking for donations to help fund that work. In all it costs us about $125 to $150 to turn around a computer for a student, whether it be a with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and all the cords included or laptop, computer with this power cord. So getting those out to kids, does cost money. And, we're trying to raise more funds in order to get more computers out. So right now we've done the volume that we typically do in a year and about a month and a half. And so we're getting those funds to keep that momentum going.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. That's great. And the type of computers that you get in there, five to six years old, usually take care of the needs


Colin Dempsey: