READING, PA – The Violence Prevention Center of Berks (VPCBerks), in its quest to extend educational opportunities to low-income residents, has opened a computer store named Pay-It-Forward Technologies at 549 Spring St ― the corner of 6th and Spring streets ― in Reading, Pennsylvania. The current goals of the store are to provide low-cost, Linux-based refurbished computers as well as high-quality Windows and Linux repair services to low-income families.
To keep service fees low, Pay-It-Forward Technologies has created an apprenticeship program for high-school students. The apprentice program is a graduated program that will take the participants step-by-step through a process of rebuilding computers, loading operating systems and software, setting-up networks and creating websites. Apprentices who complete the two-year program will receive a certificate detailing their achievements so they can place this skill set on a résumé. The main object of the apprentice program is to give the participants advantage in entering the computer industry; especially, the set-up, maintenance and repair of Linux-based servers.
The need for low-cost, reliable computers in low-income communities is becoming increasingly important because school districts, like Reading’s, rely heavily on web-based tools for classroom and homework support. In cooperation with Free Geek Penn in Ephrata and used computer donations, Pay-It-Forward Technologies sells Linux-based desktop computers with a flat-panel monitor and high-speed Internet capability starting at $60.00. Laptop prices start at $125.00. These computers can also be loaded with an open source web-filtering program, Dansguardian, allowing for the safe investigation of the Internet by children. The cost of Internet access is kept to a minimum by introducing families to Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” program.
Pay-It-Forward Technologies is also an electronics recycling drop-off site to help area residents who might not be able to travel to the Berks County recycling center comply with the Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act of 2010. All electronics are accepted free of charge, except CRT monitors and televisions.
Pay-It-Forward Technologies plans, in the short-term, to expand its apprenticeship program capacity; and in the long-term, to open a community computer education center.
VPCBerks was formed on November 9th, 2009 from members of the Violence Prevention Roundtable — a discussion group comprised of members from a number of Berks County non-profit organizations focused on anti-violence initiatives. VPCBerks was created to provide programs targeting 13 – 21 year-old youths after the Roundtable discovered that after-school and training programs for high-school-aged youth are limited in Berks County.