Two friends were looking for something to do last summer when their normal activities were restricted due to COVID-19.
Little did they know their restlessness would lead to an event in November where 160 Microsoft Surface Pros were given to Spring Branch ISD middle school students.
Ford Lancaster, a senior at Stratford High School, and his friend Adam Desroches from St. Thomas Episcopal High School, grew up playing tournament baseball together. At the peak of the pandemic last summer, they noticed schools were transitioning to digital learning. They decided to do something to give back to the community and help disadvantaged students experience the perks of owning a computer for schoolwork and other needs their families may have.
“We decided to work on a project with the goal of getting devices in the hands of these students,” said Lancaster.
The friends were inspired by Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook’s donation of 650 computers for underprivileged youth through a local organization called Comp-U-Dopt founded in 2007 by Jonathan Osha. In July 2020, Lancaster and Desroches contacted the non-profit and explained their idea to raise $30,000 to provide laptops to students in SBISD.
“For the next couple of months, we started accumulating donations by any means possible,” said Lancaster. “We made a GoFundMe account and contacted family, friends and local businesses.”
Within two months, they reached their goal, and then some, raising more than $36,000.
Next, they worked with the Communities in Schools (CIS) coordinator in SBISD, Mary Pizana, to get help with identifying students in need who would benefit from receiving a computer. Students from Northbrook, Spring Oaks, Landrum and Spring Woods middle schools were identified by CIS Student Support Managers to be the beneficiaries of Lancaster’s and Desroches’ efforts.
“I chose some students who are in the SOMS Techie Club,” said CIS Student Support Manager Cristal Cervantes. “Mr. Moreno [the club’s sponsor and teacher at the school] will be so happy to know they are getting Surface Pros so they can use them to design technology projects.”
On a Saturday just before Thanksgiving, the friends’ summer project came to fruition. Cars started lining up at Northbrook Middle with happy and thankful students and families inside who were stunned to receive a computer of their own.
The two students who garnered the donations were on hand to pass out the computers, and humbly receive words of appreciation from the people in every car.
“Thank you all so much,” said one parent. “We have been needing one [a computer] for a long time. Not only for my daughter to do homework, but also so I can go back to school myself, and apply for jobs. God bless you for this gift that will help our whole family.”
According to Joel Reyes, Comp-U-Dopt’s Operations Manager who was on hand to assist with the distribution at Northbrook Middle, the 160 laptops made possible by the fundraising of Lancaster and Desroches are part of more than 10,000 donated computers the organization has handed out to youth in Houston since March 2020. In contrast, during a normal year they distribute about 2,000 devices.
“It feels good to be doing this right before Thanksgiving,” said Lancaster. His friend, Adam, agreed. Both had smiles of satisfaction and humility as they watched the stack of laptops get smaller during the distribution event.
See more photos from the computer distribution event here.
Both young men are top students and play football and baseball for their respective high schools. College is the next "project" for them. Lancaster plans to major in engineering, and hopes to attend the University of Texas. Desroches has his sights set on an accounting degree from Rice University.
If the planning, execution and success of their summer project is any indication, the two friends will succeed at whatever they set their minds to do.
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications