Laptops2Kids gives students laptops and life skills

11/28/2016 | TACOMA, Washington

Foss High School junior Austin Lappin-Wise’s face shone with pride as he walked up to his Laptops2Kids teacher. Grasping a laptop in his hands, Austin explained that the computer was the first one he repaired on his own and asked his teacher to take his photograph with it. 

Austin—who has a special education designation—succeeded by learning from fellow students who taught him the necessary skills in the after school Laptops2Kids program, making the moment extra special for teacher Paula Yost.

“I about burst into tears!” Yost said. “His face was full of pride and accomplishment. The bonus is that the other student workers smiled at him, appreciating the moment too. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Austin and classmates at Foss High School work four days a week after school to refurbish surplus district laptops to put into the hands of Tacoma students. Due to their work, eligible students in kindergarten through 12th grade can take home a laptop to keep permanently. 

​Foss High School junior Austin Lappin-Wise pictured with the
first laptop he repaired through Laptops2Kids.
Since Laptops2Kids started two years ago, the district has distributed more than 1,100 laptops to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch or meet federal poverty guidelines. The laptops, previously used by teachers or as classroom computers, would land in district surplus without the program. 

Foss High School students clear the computer hard drive to remove teacher information, thoroughly clean the machines, replace defunct keyboards and prepare the computers for a new operating system, purchased by the Foundation for Tacoma Students. 

Tacoma students can apply for a laptop by submitting an application form on the website You can access the website from any computer, including computer kiosks in school offices. 

The district accepts applications at any time. The district will distribute the next round of laptops  Dec. 7-9. Additional distributions will occur in February, April and May.

Austin decided to help repair laptops after hearing about the program from his friend, Sam Norton. Austin learned that if he repaired 10 laptops, he would earn one for himself. He also likes the idea behind the program.

“I feel that it’s right to prepare laptops for kids, so they can have it,” Austin said. “It’s not fair if people can’t afford it.”

Foss students who repair the laptops can earn community service or worksite learning credit to help fulfill graduation requirements. Some students who are 16 years old or older are hired by the district and paid minimum wage (currently $10.56) hourly for their work on Laptops2Kids. Every student worker employed by the district completed the standard district hiring process, a new experience for many—complete with learning about creating and submitting a resume and cover letter. 

Austin’s glad that the skills he learned through Laptops2Kids will help him care for his laptop. He says finishing each laptop makes him feel accomplished. 

“Getting them successfully repaired makes me proud because it gives me confidence to do more,” he said.