BROOKSVILLE — Students at several Hernando County high schools have a new incentive to perform well in the classroom.
Through the Communities in Schools' Computers for Kids program, top-performing students could be awarded refurbished computers made of parts collected from old computers in the community.
The program started about a year ago with a few donations to Computer Corrections, a local technology repair store owned by James Tomasello. Now, the organization is asking residents and businesses to drop off their old computers at the store and at other locations around the county.
"This is a perfect opportunity to get some of the computers that are not just junk and get them into the hands of people who need them," Tomasello said.
To help take some of the workload off Tomasello, the program is taking on 15 high school students to work on the computers for the summer.
In teams of three, the students will learn what makes up a computer, then what it takes to get a computer to work, Tomasello said.
A quick lesson in computers: For one to turn on, it needs a motherboard, a processor, a power supply and random-access memory, known as RAM. For a computer to support an operating system, it needs two additional parts — a hard drive and, most of the time, a CD drive.
Tomasello said he will teach students how to identify and put these and other more specific parts together to make a working computer. At the end of the summer, they'll be rewarded with technology upgrades or new equipment.
"I plan to give them enough info to be useful for this program and possibly spark an interest in learning more," he said.
StoreRight Self Storage owner Dawn Shallcross made a storage unit available for the computers before they're taken to Tomasello's shop. In the last few weeks, Shallcross said, community members have donated 12 computers.
So far, the shop has turned over six computers — one to an individual student, two to Hernando High School and three to Central High School — said Tracy Echols, executive director of Hernando's Communities in Schools program, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce dropout rates at Hernando, Central and Springstead high schools.
At Central High, the computers will be given to the three students who score the highest on this year's math end-of-course exam, said assistant principal Kelly Slusser.
The School District has pushed schools to use technology more for homework and class assignments, Slusser said. Central has computers available for students to use, but many families don't own computers at home.
"Every school would like to have more technology. That's across the state," Slusser said. "But definitely at home, there tends to be more of a need."
Computers will also be given to two students at Hernando High based on need and academic performance, said Sarah Bennett, the school's site coordinator for Communities in Schools.
"There are so many students who don't have access to a computer and don't have one at home," Bennett said. "We just think in today's world, everybody's on the same page, but we're not."
Contact Kathryn Varn at (352) 754-6114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @kathrynvarn on Twitter.