TOWN & COUNTRY — Berkeley Preparatory School student Jack Koch thinks every child deserves to have access to technology. So when he discovered that Dickenson Elementary School, the Title 1 school across the street from Berkeley, needed computers, he vowed to raise money to rectify the situation.
The 17-year-old recently made good on his promise when he delivered 16 laptops to the low-income school.
Jack is no stranger to philanthropy. Before moving to Tampa with his family last summer from Boca Raton, he founded the nonprofit BYTE, short for Bringing Youth Technology Everywhere. Knowing the impact technology has had on his own education, so he wants to ensure that others have the same opportunities, regardless of their financial situation.
His work with BYTE got off to a good start in Boca Raton, earning him the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award, but he was eager to expand the reach of the group.
Jack found the support system he needed when he enrolled as a junior last fall at Berkeley, whose educational philosophy is grounded in community service. The school required students to log community service hours well before it became a national trend.
Jack also came to Berkeley at a time when the school was revitalizing its approach to community outreach. Kim Lawless came on board in the newly created position of director of community engagement and service learning. Her job would be to work closely with students to turn their passions into potential service opportunities.
Lawless asked Jack to serve as a Spanish language translator for parent-teacher conferences at Dickenson Elementary. The teen knew that Dickenson could benefit from his technological expertise.
Jack was also brainstorming ideas for an AP calculus project in which his teacher, Thom Morris, challenged students to use their knowledge to make a difference in someone's life.
All of the pieces were falling into place. The student knew that by working with Dickenson, he would be fulfilling the requirements of Morris' project, furthering the work of BYTE, and, more important, making a difference in the lives of others.
"Jack's desire to help others is genuine," Lawless said. "He truly listens to find out what people need, which is so important."
He did listen. He learned that Dickenson didn't just need computers, but laptops that could be housed on rolling carts so that multiple students could use them throughout the day. He also learned that to be fully functional, the laptops would need to be loaded with the proper software. When Jack said he could make all of that happen, Dickenson's vice principal, Ryan Moody, admits he was skeptical.
By their third strategy session, that skepticism vanished. Moody knew that this was a young man who could get the job done.
Working closely with Lawless, Jack devised a plan to challenge family and friends to contribute to the cause by offering to match donations using his personal money. The plan worked. Jack raised the $5,200 needed to put his goal into action.
Students and faculty at Dickenson are grateful.
"Jack is the most amazing young man I have ever met," Moody said. "He is just a junior in high school, and here he is already making a difference in the world."
His work is far from finished. With Berkeley on his side, he is ready for his next fundraising initiative.
"The school's support has made so much difference," Jack noted.
As Jeremy Canody, Berkeley's director of communications, pointed out, the feeling is mutual.
"Jack is a prime example of what we strive to be," he said.
Karen Ring can be reached at [email protected]