Program provides students free laptop


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Medical assisting major Cynthia Hernandez unwraps a free Dell laptop computer given to her as part of the CalWORKs program on Sept. 26 in SSC-106.

By Jackson Stephens, Staff Writer

To stimulate educational success in the digital age, free laptops were awarded to an eager line of deserving students Sept. 26 from 1-4 p.m. in the Student and Administration Building.

Greater accessibility to computers can change a student’s performance and experience for the better, according to a 2016 Michigan State University study. Distributing laptops to students correlates with better standardized test scores and improved writing skills, the study’s co-author Binbin Zheng said.

This certainly is the case for 14 Contra Costa College recipients of brand-new laptops as part of a CalWORKs initiative.

EOPS/CARE and CalWORKs Manager George Mills Jr. said the decision to give laptops, as opposed to other school supplies, was based on a focus group conducted one year ago.

“This is the first batch with hopefully more to come,” he said.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a welfare-to-work program that promotes self-sufficiency among its participants. This is done through working with other agencies to facilitate education, vocational training and ultimately employment.

In partnership with the K to College program, an Oakland group that works to assist underprivileged kids and young adults, the plan is to assist students academically, professionally and at home.

The K to College program’s objective is to provide low-income, foster and homeless students with school supplies, backpacks and dental care. They also partner with more than 350 county offices in multiple states.

Criminal justice major Sally Nguyen said, “I appreciate the program. Even though not everyone was able to get a laptop, it is at least something that helps.”

She was alerted to the opportunity through a CalWORKs blast email and entered for the chance to get one. Nguyen plans on using her laptop for classes and helping her daughter with her schoolwork.

Prospective students in CalWORKs were sent an email with five questions to determine who would be eligible. From that survey a group of 14 received a laptop.

“The students worked hard to earn their laptop,” CalWORKs Office assistant Priscilla Pina said.

She said this was not charity and those who got laptops did so on merit.

Pina recommends students check their InSite Portal and email to stay current on opportunities for which they may be eligible. Her hope is that more laptops will be donated in the future to empower a greater number of students. Pina does not want students to use the computers only for their college. She also hopes they are put to use in the professional world and in their careers.

For health and human services major Tamicha Bell, her laptop has helped her deal with multiple challenges.

Before, she needed to go to the Library in order to write papers and do research, but now she is able to use the web and compose papers at home — while also looking after her children.

Bell says using her laptop at home is less stressful and less rushed than doing so on campus. It allows her to focus on her classwork as opposed to worrying about the need to return home. It also serves as a new resource to find jobs. This is a tool she plans to further utilize when she transfers to Cal State-East Bay.