|Aneesh Chopra, a candidate for lieutenant governor (center), with Stuart students Georgie Jones, Quan Huynh, Aidan Jones (a student at Glasgow), Tin Nguyen, and Imad Elamir.|
Because students without a computer or internet access are at a clear disadvantage, a group of students at JEB Stuart High School is refurbishing old computers and giving them to needy families as part of an after-school club affiliated with the VA Star program.
Stuart 10th-grader Imad Elamir said he and the other VA Star students stayed at school until 7 p.m. last Friday to work on the first batch of 20 desktop computers. The computers will be distributed free of charge to students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
VA Star (Student Training and Refurbishment) is a statewide initiative championed by Aneesh Chopra, the former secretary of technology under Gov. Tim Kaine and former chief technology officer in the Obama Administration.
Chopra, a candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, lauded VA Star at a campaign event in Lake Braddock March 10, saying it exemplifies “everything you want government to be.” He told the audience, which included several Stuart students, that VA Star fits in with his goal to make the commonwealth’s government “faster, better, smarter, and fairer.”
Chopra said the idea for the program came from an intern in his office in 2008. Instead of paying to dispose of old computers, this program helps young people learn about computer repair while helping to close the digital divide. At the same time, the students earn industry certifications that can help them get into college.
Chuck Drake, a teacher in Prince William County, won a competition to design the program, and he is now administering Va Star for the state. Gov. Bob McDonnell embraced the concept and provided an additional $400,000 to scale it up, Chopra says. It has since spread to dozens of schools, including Luther Jackson and Herndon middle schools and Chantilly and Fairfax high schools.