This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

Without a computer at home, Gamewell Middle School student Dustin Lefevere found it hard to complete even simple assignments for school.

His mother, Brenda Summerlin, had to take him to the library to do his homework – another challenge, since Summerlin currently doesn’t have a car.

“It has limited him to things that he’d like to do,” Summerlin said. “It’s been a struggle to get his homework done.”

But starting next week, Summerlin and Lefevere won’t have to make the trek to the library to do homework. Dustin was one of more than 100 Caldwell County students who each received a free computer Friday.

The machines were given away by the Kramden Institute, a Durham nonprofit that refurbishes computers and works to get them into the hands of students.

“That’s our mission – to bridge the digital divide,” said Cari DelMariani, director of events and education for the group.

Kramden received a Google Community Grant for these computers, but Google had one condition: The computers had to go to Caldwell County kids.

So Kramden chose Gamewell Middle School and West Lenoir Elementary. About 80 kids per school were recommended by their teachers to receive computers, based on need (they didn’t already have a computer in the home) and academic achievement.

Both schools brought in the kids and their parents in waves Thursday and Friday. Each family sat down with their new computer while Kramden staff showed them how to hook it up, how to use it, and what programs were already loaded.

At schools throughout the county, teachers keep in mind which students lack home computers when they have a technology-fueled lesson, staff members at both schools said. But learning is digitized more each day, and it gets tougher for those students to keep up.

“Technology’s changing so much and so fast,” Gamewell principal Chris Greene said. “Because so many children do have access to it, it puts the ones that don’t at a disadvantage.”

At both Gamewell and West Lenoir, parents were grateful – and a little taken aback – by the giveaway.

“They were saying things like, ‘Now my child can finish their homework, now they can get their assignments completed on time,’” West Lenoir principal Felicia Simmons said. “They were just saying thank you and thank you and thank you.”