Technology Services Corps Programs
Ultimately, the populations served are from two different groups:
- students/teachers in schools in underserved areas where the computer labs are set up;
- students in Seattle who, through their involvement in the trips, enhance their leadership skills, learn computer skills, and deepen their appreciation of cultures other than their own. Among the students in the second group are many students who cannot afford the program services fees and so are only able to participate in the trips with full or partial 'scholarship' support - provided through charitable donations.
Seattle high school youth lead technology service trips to underserved areas overseas. Through this experience, students develop leadership skills as they take responsibility for organizing all aspects of the trip - from fund-raising, to travel/logistical planning, to ensuring successful set up of each computer lab in the host country. The trips also create exposure, through which participating students can consider life-long careers or volunteer work in areas such as technology, international relations, or community service.
For a single trip, the students engage in approximately six months of activities: volunteering at InterConnection - a non-profit computer recycling center - in order to gain knowledge and skills regarding computers; engaging in various fund-raising activities; planning the logistics of the trip; installing one or more computer labs in the host country; teaching students in-country about the computers; and engaging in a range of social activities - developing friends across the globe.
- The establishment of the computer labs in the schools in the host countries diminishes the 'digital divide' - opening up a world of information and opportunities for students in the schools were the labs are established. Many of the students have never seen or touched a computer – never experienced the expansiveness of the internet.
- In preparation for their trips, the students volunteer at InterConnection, a Seattle computer recycling center. This activity include hands-on work with computers which facilitates knowledge and skill development in technology. The students also organize a computer recycling drive for InterConnection which further engages them in environmental stewardship.
- Finally, the cross cultural exchange which occurs as Seattle youth work, play, and visit with their counterparts in the host countries opens the eyes of all students here and abroad, as they experience commonalities and deepen their respect for their differences. TSC relies on charitable donations for two main purposes: to cover costs associated with the creation of the computer labs overseas and to allow for the involvement of Seattle students who, without financial assistance, could not participate in the trips. Both of these purposes - creation of the labs and engaging low-income Seattle youth in the service trips - opens a world of opportunities to youth, here and abroad.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
An example of the kind of work done by TSC is our very successful service trip to Ghana in 2011.
In Ghana, it is a national requirement that students pass a computerized exam to enter high school and to move from one grade to the next in high school. Even so, access to computers there is limited. A TSC team of 17 students from Garfield High School and 4 chaperones took 90 donated computers and set them up in computer labs in 3 schools in Ofankor, Ghana. This project was accomplished in partnership with The Village Net and with the Seattle University-based chapter of Students in Free Enterprise.
This project not only increased access to technology for the students in Ghana, it engaged Seattle youth in life-changing international service work, and built bridges between youth across the globe.TSC returned to Ghana in April of 2013, building computer labs in 5 different schools.