Jefferson Award Winner Gives Away Computers And Free TrainingBy Sharon Chin

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) A nonprofit survey shows about 40% of Oakland public school students have no access to computers or high speed internet at home. So an East Bay man has devoted his life to bringing them up to speed.

Domingo Vazquez was once a boilermaker in San Francisco’s Bayview, and a chef at the Clift Hotel. But then he found his passion in giving away technology.

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“If you don’t have access to a computer or the internet, you’ll going to fall further and further behind,” he explained.

Vazquez directs curriculum and training for Oakland Technology Exchange West, or OTX West. The Oakland nonprofit refurbishes donated computers and distributes them to low-income families for free.

Before a recent giveaway at Parkside Elementary School in Pittsburg, he taught basic computer concepts in Spanish and English, then helped families sign up for low-cost internet service.

He’s taught the free classes for 16 years, mostly in Oakland during his time off. A grant expanded the program last year throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

Laura Hernandez took home her family’s first computer from the Parkside giveaway.

“It’s awesome because a lot of us parents don’t have the knowledge of internet and the knowledge of computers to be able to help our kids,” she said.

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OTX West estimates Vazquez has given away 40,000 computer bundles containing the keyboard, monitor, mouse, and hard drive. And he’s trained more than 10,000 families.

He also offers free tech support at the OTX office. OTX Executive Director Seth Hubbert says his colleague could have a lucrative career as a high tech executive, but that’s not what he chose.

“He wanted to take that skill that he had with the computer and help others develop those skills,” Hubbert said. “He’s a teacher at heart.”

“Sure, I could go work for a Hollywood studio if I wanted,” Vazquez agreed. “But I don’t think I’d have as much fun. Money isn’t everything.”

He says he’s making his life count, one computer, one family, at a time.

So for helping to bridge the digital divide for thousands of East Bay families, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Domingo Vazquez.

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OTX West accepts donated computers, minimum dual core, compatible with the latest software. To contribute, use this link.