28 Niles students qualify for free computers

Published 10:45 am Friday, April 9, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Giving away free computers to students who do not have them just sounds too good to be true.
That is what Tim Bagby, assistant principal at Ballard Elementary, thought when he first heard about the idea at a Berrien County Intermediate School District meeting.
He decided to follow through with the idea and made arrangements to bring the Bridges to Digital Excellence project to Niles.
The project, sponsored by the Benton Harbor-based Council for World-Class Communities, was designed to provide computers to families who do not have them.
According to its website, the Council for World Class Communities is an organization "working to remove barriers to diversity with inclusion as well as barriers to economic prosperity for residents across Michigan's Great Southwest."
Doug Chapman, technology education manager with the council, held an informational meeting at Ballard Elementary last month for all interested third, fourth and fifth graders in Niles.
Bagby said 28 Niles students applied and qualified for the program and all 28 were present at the meeting in March.
The requirements for third, fourth and fifth grade students to qualify for the program were that the student did not have a computer at home and were willing to go through eight hours of training with their parents.
Chapman said the council is working on bringing a satellite class to Niles to train the students and their parents sometime in late April or early May.
The training includes four lessons: a basic introduction to computers, Windows XP, the internet and Microsoft Word.
In addition to getting a totally refurbished computer with Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003, the participating families will also be getting three free months of internet access.
Chapman said the free computers are either donated to the council or purchased by the council with donated funds.
There are five phases to the council's project and providing computers to children and families without home computers is just the first phase.
The other phases include building computer literacy, training certification, hardware training and employment assistance.
Chapman said anyone currently in third, fourth or fifth grade in Berrien County schools that does not own a computer and would like to apply to participate should contact their school's principal for an application or call the Council for World-Class Communities at (269) 934-9286.