TeXcellence partners step up to bridge the digital divide
Jessica Cervantes and her father are the 1,100th family to receive a TeXcellence computer during this school year. With Kelly Morrell, Alina Klein, TeXcellence trainer Jim Froelich and Mike Jennings.
Sarasota, Florida – Venice High School’s media center was the scene this week, when twenty-nine South County families braved an early evening thunderstorm to learn how to attach a keyboard to a CPU, navigate around a full suite of software, and take home their very own computers. On Wednesday night, the TeXcellence Computer Donation program delivered computer number 1,100 to Woodland Middle School’s Jessica Cervantes and blew past its goal for the 2008-09 school year.
More than 2,500 families have received refurbished home computers, training and technical support since the program was launched in the spring of 2007. The program is a collaboration between Sarasota County Schools and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
“It is phenomenal to see students and parents coming to school together for such a positive reason,” said Mike Jennings, Venice High’s assistant principal. “Having a computer at home is going to be a big help for homework and reports, and just the promise of getting one has boosted attendance for some.” Jennings hosted the event, welcoming guest Kelly Morrell from Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice to help celebrate the milestone. The Foundation has made a commitment of $150,000 to the program for the current and next school years.
TeXcellence has become a model for public/private partnership in the region. Grants from the Dart Foundation and the ANS Foundation launched the program in its first year, and
their support continues to guide the program. Dozens of other contributors – individuals, businesses, civic groups – are making gifts in multiples of $250, the cost of supplying one computer for a family. District personnel and the Sarasota PC User's Group offer training and tech support. The PC User’s Group also assists with refurbishing the computers, loading them with educational and home office software supplied by Computers for Youth, a national nonprofit organization. The schools, Sarasota County government, and area businesses are providing equipment and storage space. Publix Super Markets donated over 1,000 gently used computers from its Lakeland, Florida headquarters.
Starting in February 2009, with the help of major grants from philanthropist Al Weis, ANS Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, families may also choose the option of adding Internet access. For an initial set-up fee of $40, families receive a year’s subscription to broadband service, security, and parental controls.
Alina Klein, TeXcellence coordinator, is gearing up for 2009-2010. “We have thousands more eligible families who really want and need these computers, who are truly motivated to help their children succeed.”
Dominique Ward is joined by brother Kolbie, mom Dionne Ward, and sister Taira at Venice High School to receive TeXcellence training and their family’s new computer.
Brittany Romanok and her mother, Dori Kozlowski join the TeXcellence training at Venice High School.
VHS Assistant Principal Mike Jennings, Kelly Morrell, Alina Klein, and TeXcellence trainer/founder Ron Zimmerman.
Dedicated to quality education for all children, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County is an independent, not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the community and Sarasota County public schools. With the support of individuals, families, companies and foundations, the Education Foundation awards more than $1,200,000 each year to initiatives including the TeXcellence Computer Donation program, Teacher of the Year, Academic Olympics, classroom grants, fine arts programs, and literacy initiatives. For more information call 941-927-0965.