Sophomore Rebecca Prager has found a way to use her interest in computer science and her studies on issues faced by economically underprivileged communities to help others. She recently started VolunTechs, a volunteer organization that works to improve access to technology in San Antonio schools.
Prager developed this idea after serving with an enrichment program in Atlanta over spring break as part of a research study. Through this program, she discovered issues that she thought might be prevalent in San Antonio as well, particularly in the public schools of San Antonio Independent School District. SAISD is San Antonio’s oldest and most underprivileged school district.
“The teachers and students spend more time on getting the technology working than actually getting to use it,” Prager said. “It was a problem and there was no one to fix it. The district can put in a request for maintenance to fix these problems, but it is a quite long and cumbersome process.”
After researching this problem and seeing its effects, Prager aimed to create a solution that could be applied in San Antonio, which was facing similar problems as the center in Atlanta.
“I encouraged Rebecca to move beyond her research and think about how she could get more Trinity students involved in helping these non-profits and schools to get the computers in working order,” said Lisa Jasinski, special projects coordinator in academic affairs, who has helped Rebecca get the program started.
Many members of the community rely on public computers since they do not have them available at home.
“Many children and community members rely on technology to complete school assignments, gain information or apply for jobs, and it’s critical that these machines are in working order,” Jasinski said. “Imagine what your life would look like without internet access or software like Word or Excel.”
To aid SAISD in fixing and maintaining technology, the VolunTechs assess the technology that needs to be fixed; they also teach SAISD personnel and students how to maintain the technology so they can solve the problems on their own in the future.
“We get into small groups and have people teach each group and take them under their wing,” Prager said. “We want to educate them so that eventually they are self-sustainable.”
VolunTechs welcomes the entire university student body, faculty and alumni to participate in monthly SAISD outreach projects.
“Seeing Trinity students take initiatives like this makes me feel a sense of pride,” said sophomore Chloe Phea. “I feel like that is part of what Trinity is about: taking what we learn here to help others and give back.”