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70 students from WNY school districts receive free computers | Education

Mohammad Tamal beamed with excitement as he opened a box containing a new computer, and held it up as dozens of students cheered.

He was one of 70 students from four school districts across Western New York who received free computers Thursday for participating in a summer leadership program.

“I’m going to study computer engineering so I think it’s really interesting to see how a computer works,” said Tamal, 13, who was grateful for the gift.

Computers were given to 55 students from Buffalo Public Schools and 15 students from Maryvale, Frontier and Lake Shore school districts.

Students who demonstrate leadership potential are selected by school faculty and staff to participate in the Leaders in Training program, a four-week summer program run by Western New York United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse. The sessions, held at Lorraine Academy Monday through Friday, teach students life skills such as how to balance a checkbook, develop leadership and social skills. Students also participate in games and explore the creative process of writing through the English Language Arts curriculum.

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Tammy Bennett, program director of the LIT program, said some students cried and panicked when they were told last week that they were being given computers.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen what’s happening and the fragmentation that we have to go virtual and students need what they need in their homes,” Bennett said. “It means a lot to them that they have their own devices in their home to do what they need to do to be successful as they move forward in their careers.”

The free computers are provided through a partnership with Mission:IGNITE, a local tech nonprofit, through grants provided by AT&T and Digitunity, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit.

For many in the program, like eighth-grader Aniyah Horn, 13, who is headed to Hutchinson Central Technical High School this fall, it’s the first computer they’ve ever owned.

“I’m very happy because I don’t have my own computer myself, so I’m going to put it to good use. I can disassemble and assemble the computer and code it with my own abilities,” said Horn.

AT&T partnered with Digitunity to select 10 cities across the country to provide computers to marginalized communities and communities in need., said Benjamin Roberts, director of Public Affairs for AT&T.

“We know that the internet is an important aspect of all education today. We want them to just know how to use computers. A lot of low-income, under-resourced communities just don’t have the experience of digital literacy,” said Roberts.

“Our hope is that students will be interested in technology as a career or educational path,” said Kevin Hanna, AT&T’s director of external affairs.

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