Student creates nonprofit to bridge the growing digital divide

Alex Lasker
·3-min read

As students and teachers across the country struggle to adjust to remote learning, one New Jersey teen is seeking a way to improve the difficult pivot for people who may lack the technological resources to thrive amid the pandemic.

Dylan Zajac, a 17-year-old senior student at Manhattan’s LREI- High School, founded the nonprofit Computers 4 People, which aims to bridge the digital divide by collecting computers, refurbishing them and providing them to individuals and organizations in under-resourced communities to promote equity and access to opportunity.

“Digital equity is important to me because, especially in the online school that I’m in right now, you need a computer or else you’re falling behind in your education,” Zajac told In The Know. “Computers and internet access and going online are necessities.”

Credit: In The Know
Credit: In The Know

Zajac and his friends used to make a hobby out of scouring thrift shops for old computers and parts to sell on Ebay, he told NJ.com. As such, the teen is a seasoned vet when it comes to refurbishing technology, including the computers, laptops and tablets donated to Computers 4 People.

Zajac and his volunteers work diligently to wipe the memory of each donated device and install new operating systems before distributing them to those in need.

Thankfully, amid these unprecedented times, Zajac says he knows Computers 4 People is not alone in its mission. During the coronavirus pandemic, Verizon has expanded its education initiatives to help students gain the skills they need to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world through their responsible business plan, Citizen Verizon.

“It’s inspiring that large companies like Verizon are working to bridge the digital divide, especially since they’re a technology company,” he said. “During [the pandemic], so many people are relying on technology.”

Credit: In The Know
Credit: In The Know

Verizon is currently working to move the world forward for good by expanding digital access and resources, protecting the climate and ensuring people have the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

As part of its plan, the company has pledged to provide 10M youths with digital skills training by 2030.

“To achieve digital equity, Verizon has been creating programs to promote digital inclusivity,” Zajac explained. “[The company is] also continuing to ensure all communities have access to Wi-Fi and the proper technology so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Credit: In The Know
Credit: In The Know

“I’m glad to know that Verizon is working hard to bridge the digital divide,” he added. “Working to achieve this common goal will make a huge impact in the communities that we serve.”

Although Zajac acknowledges he really enjoys the business aspect of running Computers 4 People — revamping hardware, directing phone calls, etc. — he says his real motivation is providing technology to communities “and knowing that they’re going to a good cause.”

“These people’s lives might be impacted forever because they now have access to this essential tool to find a job or access their education,” he shared.

If you liked this article, read about students who are working to solve the internet accessibility gap in Baltimore.

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