When a person hears that they’re being offered something for free, normally one of the first thoughts to pop into their head is “what’s the catch?” That’s because a lot of the time there is a catch associated with a free offer, and it’s a question that Jon Zimmerman has to answer frequently.
‘They want to know what the catch is,” he said. “Nobody gives away anything for free.”
Zimmerman, a science teacher at Great Neck North Middle School, recently donated 121 laptops to Valley Stream District 30 — no strings attached. It wasn’t the first sizeable donation Zimmerman has made; in fact he estimates he has donated more than 3,000 computers in the last three years through his organization, Comp4Kids, a not-for-profit charity.
“I get a lot of satisfaction because I know that I’m really doing a lot of good for a bunch of children that I’ll never meet,” he said.
The 121 laptops he donated to District 30 wasn’t the first donation he made to the district, either. Approximately 18 months ago, Gerard Poole, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said Zimmerman made an initial donation of 25 laptops. Since it worked out so well, Ryan Meloni, director of technology, reached out to Zimmerman again in June to inquire about another donation.
“In a 2 percent tax cap…expanding and increasing your technology abilities and the infrastructure is more and more challenging,” Poole said. “To be able to get a donation of 121 laptops to support everything from testing to instruction to ESL is really a gift for everybody.”
Zimmerman, a Port Washington resident, gets laptops from corporate donations, government grants and words of mouth. Then, he and his team, consisting of his wife, children and student volunteers, refurbish the laptops in his garage.
“I’m a schoolteacher and I was upset that certain kids have access to computers and other kids don’t,” he said. “I wanted to do what I could to make the classroom a level playing field for all children.”
Zimmerman estimates he works between 10-15 hours per week refurbishing laptops, but is happy to do it. “I really feel very fulfilled and I think this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done,” he said. “I feel content with what I’m giving back to my community.”
Poole said these laptops, which made their debut in District 30 on the first day of school, will be used by critical needs and sixth-grade students, in addition to speeding up the testing process. “We’re able to get the students in and out of that adaptive testing and back into the classroom and not have the computer lab shut down,” he said.
The laptops are split between the three schools and are hooked up to the district’s server. Meloni and his crew worked for two weeks in August and September to inspect each laptop and put the district’s operating system and software on them.
Meloni said he and his colleagues at District 30 use out of the box thinking to get the best services and opportunities for their students. “We’re saving a significant amount of money by procuring this type of resource,” he said, “and that means the world to a small school district in this economy that’s struggling to provide the best for our students.”
Comp4Kids distributes computers to low-income families in the tri-state area, in addition to school districts, public libraries and charitable organizations that service at-risk youth.
Zimmerman currently has a few hundred laptops ready to be given away, but is always looking for donations. For more information on his organization, visit Comp4Kids.org
District 30’s leaders are grateful for the support. “We would not be able to have rolled out 121 laptops,” Poole said. “That would have been a very long process to find the funds to do that. It’s really a pleasant surprise to know that that’s out there.”