STEM2Hub is partnering with Urban Mining, the Jacksonville-based electronic refurbisher and recycler, and local corporations to provide refurbished computers to students who can’t afford them.
Urban Mining already works with many major companies in Jacksonville, including Florida Blue, Black Knight and Acosta, to recycle their end-of-life IT. The company works with Duval County Public Schools to refurbish the school system’s old technology and sell it to students at half the retail value.
“We find a way to get those computers into students’ hands at the lowest possible cost,” CEO Steven Kaufman told the Business Journal, noting that he hoped to expand the program throughout surrounding counties.
In the first six weeks of the program, Urban Mining provided 4,000 computers to Duval County students, Kaufman noted. But, he admitted, there are students who cannot afford computers even at the discounted price.
Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2Hub, estimated that number to be as many as 136,000 students in Northeast Florida, the number who receive free or reduced lunch vouchers. STEM2Hub first got involved in the effort to close what it calls the “digital divide” between students with technology and students without after one of its board members, Gary Chartrand, met with a class of low-income students.
After realizing the students couldn’t afford $50 computers, he purchased some for them. Chartrand was then moved by emails the students sent describing the impact the computers were having in their lives.
“It was a call to action for all of us,” Schofield said.
Building on Urban Mining’s work with Duval County Public Schools, the company is talking with its clients to see if any will donate their end-of-life technology to the program, while STEM2Hub reaches out to local foundations to raise financial support.
“We really feel like we can move the needle on this,” said Schofield.
The pair hope to get a computer in the hands of every student without one in the next three years, paired with the resources for those students to learn how to code and use other digital tools to create, according to Schofield. Urban Mining hopes to begin distributing computers over the summer before the next school year begins, Kaufman said.
“We believe we can change the life of students and generations to come,” Kaufman said, noting his hope that as students gain access to technology, they would develop the interests and skills to pursue high-paying jobs in the technology industry.