Nonprofit increases access

Low-income students gain pathway to higher education, minimize digital divide

By Tobias Cheng, Staff Writer

Laptop computers will be provided to 80-100 low-income students for college work starting this fall.

The nonprofit K to College will be giving out the computers, first to qualifying CalWORKs and EOPS students, then to other students, college President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said.

However, the start date and number of students who can serve are dependent on receiving enough supplies, George Mills, EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs manager, said.

“It is an opportunity to work with a partner that meets an immediate demand of our students and afford us the opportunity to impact our students in ways that go beyond the classroom,” Mills said.

Mehdizadeh said, “This partnership clearly helps our college in meeting our strategic goal related to student access and success. It will greatly help to level the playing field for students by having access to technology tools used in education and in the workplace.”

Mills said that CCC will be the first college in the Contra Costa Community College District to enter the arrangement.

“CCC cultivated the partnership, so we expect CCC to start,” he said.

“The memorandum of understanding (of an official partnership) was signed and approved by our Governing Board at the Feb. 24 Governing Board meeting,” Mehdizadeh said.

Benito Delgado-Olson, executive director of K to College, said, “We’re just at the point of a formal partnership (and) haven’t figured out the stuff behind that yet.” He said K to College actually did a small pilot program already, but the work with CCC this fall will be the first year where K to College “will have a broad base.” Mills said that later in the process, “we will look to (officially) inform the campus.”

Delgado-Olson said K to College has been around for about five and a half years and has partnered with more than 300 education organizations in California. He said they typically provide hygiene and school supply kits to students aged from preschool to 12th grade.

Delgado-Olson said, “A little over a year ago, we started looking to expand to community colleges. “(K to College) started to realize there was a need there too.”

K to College has a sub-program called Green Access Pledge, or GAP. Delgado-Olson said GAP’s goal is to close the technology gap between low and high-income students.

GAP collects older computers, mostly from “private sector employers.” He said the computers are refurbished and loaded with the latest operating systems, Microsoft Office and “everything you’d expect a modern college student to have.”

Students will be able to do research, prepare presentations and access their online/hybrid courses, he said.