Computers4Kids (C4K) was founded to help close the gap that exists between youth who can afford to have a home computer and those who cannot by utilizing the growing supply of surplus computers that results when businesses, residents, and organizations upgrade their equipment. The founders are Meredith Richards (Charlottesville City Councilor), WINA’s Sarah McConnell (now with The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities), and Irvin Cox (Entré Computer Center).
1998: A survey was conducted of seventh grade students at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville and the five Albemarle County Middle Schools to determine the general level of access to home computers among 7th graders in the area. Of the 696 students responding in the county, 121 (or 17%) of the total did not have a computer at home. Of the 251 students in the city who responded, 122 (or 48%) of the total did not have a computer at home. The percentage of students at each school who did not have a computer and those on the free and reduced-price lunch program was almost identical.
October 1999: Under the auspices of the Boys & Girls Club of Charlottesville/Albemarle, C4K submitted and was awarded a grant to the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program of the US Department of Commerce to fund a year-round computer center that would significantly expand the educational component of C4K.
November 1999: C4K hired their first staff member, Kala Somerville, who currently still serves as the Executive Director. At this time. C4K was merely distributing computers to area youth and there were no minimum standards for the donated equipment. C4K immediately set minimum standards for the donated computers. Initially, C4K distributed 486 machines.
2000: C4K received a grant from the Weed & Seed Network to run a summer program. C4K led four one-week computer classes. At the conclusion of the camp session, students received a complete computer system for their home. The renovations for the Connected Community Technology Center (CCTC) (C4K’s first home) were also completed in October 2000. At this time, C4K moved its refurbishing lab from the Sprint building on Hydraulic Road to the newly renovated refurbishing lab in the CCTC. Finally, all of C4K’s operations (administrative office, refurbishing lab and learning lab) were under one roof.
2001: Although renovated by October, the Learning Lab did not open until January 16, 2001. The first group of students was trained in January. The mentors were trained in February and began working with the students in March.
2006: C4K quickly grew, and in March of 2006, relocated to its current location in the Frank IX building. This move was necessitated by the increasing number of daily students and the need to increase staff size in order to continue the development of the program.
2015: C4K joins the The Clubhouse Network and begins launching “The Clubhouse@C4K.” The Clubhouse@C4K is one of over 100 clubhouses in 20 different countries. The Clubhouse Network is a project of Boston’s Museum of Science that is offered in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. C4K expands its focus to provide youth members with daily opportunities to engage in hands on science, technology, engineering, art, and math (S.T.E.A.M.) learning opportunities.
2016: C4K hosts its first Artist-in-Residency project: “@tribute: C4K’s Identity and Empowerment Project” during a week-long summer camp. On September 9, 2016 C4K’s youth members hosted a community open house celebrating both the official Grand Opening of The Clubhouse@C4K and C4K’s 15th Anniversary year. Youth members showcased their S.T.E.A..M. projects and guests viewed the newly renovated design studios, audio recording studio, and video recording studio.
2018: We hosted our 3rd Annual Showcase event.
Today: C4K combines mentoring and technology to prepare youth for brighter futures. We provide mentoring in a creative, safe, and supportive out-of-school learning environment, access to professional-grade technology, project-based learning, and youth leadership opportunities. At C4K, youth learn by participating in:
- 1:1 mentoring with trained, volunteer mentors;
- Group mentoring and self-directed drop-ins at the C4K Clubhouse;
- Expert-led workshops that provide training in STEM skills that are in-demand in Charlottesville’s quickly growing tech industry; and
- Exposure to local tech careers through job shadowing, field trips, and guest speakers, all helping youth understand how the skills they are learning at C4K make them qualified for living wage STEM careers.
Through our latest Youth Impact Survey, youth members report increased proficiency in STEM skills. Responses also indicate that C4K is a place where members feel a meaningful sense of belonging. 100% of C4K members said they felt their mentors accepted them, and 100% felt they could trust their mentors.