Suburban students collect technology to help others with remote learning

A pair of suburban high school students are working toward a shared dream: to make digital devices accessible to more students.

Their collection box located near the entrance to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library has drawn steady donations - of mostly laptops and iPads - and the teens are just getting started.

Rohan Ganeshan, a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School, and Sachleen Tuteja, a sophomore at Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, met while junior high students at Quest Academy in Palatine.

Beyond their love of math and science, the two share a passion for service and helping others. The pandemic only magnified that. When schools made the switch to e-learning, the disparity among students who had access to technology in their homes and those who did not was glaring to these teens.

"Ensuring distance learning is nearly impossible for these students, especially given the high-level interactions in classes," Rohan says. "Not to mention, this puts them at a major disadvantage and at a risk of not getting a proper education to secure their future."

Their simple tag line appears on each page of their website: "Support a Student. Build a Future."

"When we realized that over 11 million students nationally don't have access to devices, we really felt concerned," says Sachleen, who lives in Palatine.

"Then we read that the Chicago Public Schools needed 115,000 devices. That's when we realized that this was something affecting our own community. We felt, as students, we wanted to help other students."

The pair developed a website, Devices4U2020, where they describe this disparity in student access to digital devices - a key component of the 21st century learning and educational tools - and they want to be the drivers to affect change.

Here's how it works: They ask people looking to donate their used laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, desktop computers and printers to clean their devices back to the factory setting.

Drop them off at the collection box at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., through Oct. 16.

The teens have begun partnering with the national organization Computers with Causes to do a second round of cleaning, and its network helps distribute the repurposed devices to local school districts.

That's not all. These teens are so passionate about this cause that they've contacted local businesses to see about obtaining some of their used equipment - and donations - and they've had a good response.

Some of the businesses they are partnering with include: CareOne in Arlington Heights, Multitech in Barrington, TSK Consulting in Palatine and Vistex Software and Services in Hoffman Estates.

They also have received support from Northwest Suburban High School District 214, and they have reached out to Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, who pledged to help them.

Not surprisingly, administrators with District 214 are proud of these local teens taking the initiative to affect change.

"Empowering students is one of the tenants of District 214 and Buffalo Grove High School," says Jeff Wardle, principal of Buffalo Grove High School. "One of the world's greatest untapped natural resources is high school students, and this is one example of the power of one to make a difference for many."

• • •

How you can help

What: Donate your used laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, desktop computers and printers to be repurposed for students in need of technology for school

When: Through Oct. 16

Where: Collection box is at the main entrance to Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave.


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