This blog post was submitted as an entry in the Teen Impact contest and awarded as a finalist.
Walking into Interconnection that first day, we students from Technology Services Corps (TSC) were astonished by the array of seemingly new laptops and software on sale in the front of the huge building. But at the back, we were shown exactly how this was achieved. Volunteers, with multiple screwdrivers in hand, bent their heads over tables strewn with computer parts. Further back, beginners ripped unusable computers to shreds, separating metal and plastic for recycling. Refurbishers replaced batteries, checked RAM, tested hard drives, and put on clean cases as they restored old computers to their former value. To someone like me with no tech knowledge at all, it looked overwhelming. But we all joined the beginners that day, and over the next two months, we not only mastered all the required skills, but also amassed 40 refurbished computers to deliver to a community in need.
Two months later I led a group of 14 students to the community we chose: Asociación Bendición de Dios School, in Alotenango, Guatemala. Our job was to set up a computer lab for the school as well as the larger community. As our bus drove through the cobblestone streets, I mentally reviewed the months of preparation that had brought us to this point, from planning a retreat and work parties in Seattle, to arranging the home stay and the bus we were on in Guatemala, to making a packing list and booking our many flights. And now, half a year later, we were finally here.
Swarms of kids waited outside of the black gate that led to the bright yellow and red school building. I had jitters -- of excitement and nervousness -- when I saw their hopeful and brightened faces. The bus doors opened and little kids surged to meet us, including one small boy in a big red sweatshirt, who grinned toothlessly and handed me his hand-drawn card. On the outside was a lopsided picture of a computer with the words "Gracias a todos" in big block handwriting. As he led me inside, five-year-old José couldn't wait to tell me how excited he was to learn games on the computer, and to be able to search for anything he wanted to on the Internet.
For a solid week we programmed and networked computers, complete with Open Office, Acrobat Reader, and VLC, until at last the lab was up and running. Each morning the next week students from every grade piled into the lab, and the equally challenging task of teaching began. My favorite student was a 12-year-old boy named Marvin. Very shy and quiet, he wouldn't even touch the mouse or keyboard in the beginning. But as he mustered the courage to navigate with the mouse, type his name in a document, and change text size, color, and font, I encouraged him to work through his mistakes and keep trying until he finally got it. By the end of the week, Marvin was furiously playing the typing game, able to put his fingers on every correct key as he composed homework assignments and letters to friends. Both of us were so proud of his accomplishments!
Since the first visit to Interconnection three years ago, I have had the privilege of participating in three TSC trips -- to Guatemala twice and to Ecuador -- developing my technology, teaching, Spanish language, and organizational skills. I have also served on the TSC board, given the opportunity to apply my knowledge into a real life situation, which all influence my career choices for the future. TSC has opened up not just the world wide web to communities around the world, but has allowed students from Seattle to take what they learn and apply it to their own community, as students take the lead in planning, organizing, and executing each and every trip that is run, determined to make a difference not just in our direct community, but in the global community as well.