Jefferson Award Winner Founded EqOpTechBy Sharon Chin

LOS ALTOS (KPIX 5) Surveys conducted within the last year show more than one in ten California households don’t have access to the internet because many can’t afford a computer. This week’s young Jefferson Award winners is changing that.

Virginia Sanchez can now log onto the internet at home to do homework.

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“I feel really happy and thankful,” she remarked.

She received her first laptop – refurbished by Terence Lee and his volunteers.

“It was old and they turned it into something like, precious!” she exclaimed.

For his Eagle Scout project, the 17-year-old Los Altos High School senior founded Equal Opportunity Technology, or EqOpTech. His nonprofit turns donated laptops into working equipment he gives for free to for low income students.

He had discovered some classmates couldn’t afford a computer at home.

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“It was very surprising,” Lee said. “I didn’t think anyone would lack technology.”

So far, he and his nonprofit have refurbished more than 200 laptops donated by businesses, schools, and some private households.

He learned the process himself through trial and error and tech forums online.

“It’s really fun,” he explained. “I get to play around with what I love and help people at the same time.”

The refurbished laptops go to at-risk students in Los Altos and Mountain View area schools and community centers. Lee’s workshops also teach kids how to use the technology and access free online STEM courses. Santa Rita Elementary School principal Greg Land is impressed.

“To problem solve and have the ability — the computer knowledge — to wipe out a computer and have it available so it’s really ready, that’s quite an incredible feat,” Land said. “He’s quite a Renaissance man.”

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So for narrowing the digital divide with refurbished laptops, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Terence Lee.