10. BTOP in the Bronx

My day-to-day work consists largely of chatting it up on the phone, so working yet another phone bank seemed almost like a freebie, albeit a boring one.

To my surprise, the Computers for Youth team greeted me with something approaching enthusiasm, and I quickly learned it was because they all truly love what they do.

The program was founded in 1999 to provide computers to children who otherwise would not have them at home, in order to bridge the technology gap between the haves and have nots. Since then, the organization has ballooned to service nearly 20,000 families in five cities, thanks in part to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant created by the government in 2009. Every Saturday, the CFY team hauls dozens of refurbished computers to a local middle school, where they spend the day training kids and their parents how to use the educational software that comes installed on the hard drives.

I was tasked with calling up families who had not RSVP’ed for the event this Saturday in the Bronx. The few who picked up the phones had been reluctant to attend from fear of charges down the road, and I used all of my persuasive powers to convince them otherwise.

One father told me his daughter had asked for a computer for Christmas, and he and his wife had promised to save for one for the next couple of years. He was thrilled that she could get one now, and scoffed at me when I made a joke about having to get up early for the 7:45 a.m. workshop.

“Early? I get up at 4:30 every day,” he told me, announcing that they would arrive at 6:30 because he hates to be late.

All told, I convinced six parents to come this weekend, and walked away feeling like Santa Claus.

Small wonder the CFY team is so upbeat.

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