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Two Schools: Altruism and Technology

In 1991, I was attending graduate school in New York City. I don’t think I’ll ever forget October that year as I was one of the first to order a Macintosh Classic. I ordered it from a computer store in Midtown Manhattan, the cost was about $900 (off the charts expensive at the time), and I didn’t realize, in the excitement of placing the order, it’d be another month before the desktop arrived. It finally did arrive, along with the internal 3.5-inch floppy, and I took it back to our apartment on 121st between Broadway and Amsterdam.


I could write a manifesto on the trials and tribulations of owning the Macintosh Classic. But I’ll keep it short and try to connect it to the main message. In 1991, the Macintosh Classic was only marginally useful for me. I’d word process a document in our apartment and bring it across the street to the computer lab at Teachers College…..and couldn’t get the disk to be read. Remember the Question Mark (?) smiley face icon that’d show up in the middle of the screen? And trying to print? I mean, who was sending a digital copy those days? It was frustrating. Since 1991, I’d estimate I’ve owned 45 Apple products. Remember the Apple Newton? I had one.


My point is, back in 1991, I couldn’t bring my 3.5-inch floppy across the street, in a major world city (NYC), at a highly regarded graduate school, and word process a document with any ease. Do you think at that point of my career I could care one bit about technologies in other countries? I was so consumed just getting my technology to work across the street. At that time, could I care less? Probably not.


Fast forward to 2018 at Trinity School. I recently asked Pal Thinnappan, Director of Information Technology at Trinity, for a general inventory of our hardware. He’s what Pal stated:


  • 155 iPads (1 to 1 in Kindergarten to 5th grade)
  • 60 MacBook Air
  • 25 Chromebooks


Granted, we have much more hardware, but above will hopefully illustrate my forthcoming point. And the above is hardware included for use among students, faculty and staff.


155 iPads, 60 MacBook Air, 25 Chromebooks, 1 school. Trinity School.


9,552 miles away from Trinity. 1 school. Achungo Children’s Center. The Achungo Children’s Center provides education, care, food, clothing and medical assistance for about 450 orphans and destitute children in southwest Kenya.


The connection and altruism started on June 8, 2011 (about 20 years following the MacIntosh Classic solo event) and it started small. No technology was involved. The 5th grade at Trinity awarded Achungo Children’s Center in Kenya with the Heart of Trinity Award.


The Heart of Trinity Award is a culminating Trinity Service Learning experience for 5th graders as they reflect on social problems and solutions in the world. The 5th grade chooses five organizations that represent the core values at Trinity and awards (from Penny Panic) $100 to five organizations.


On July 7, 2011, the students of Achungo Children’s Center wrote back to Trinity students thanking them for the $100. In addition to the $100, Trinity students in 2011 collected books shoes, toys, athletic gear and clothes for Achungo students.


In 2013, the technology kicked in. In June of 2013, Trinity donated 30 previously used MacIntosh laptops to Achungo Children’s Center.

In 2015, the Director of Achungo Children’s Center, Michael Nyanga, came to Trinity School attended Chapel and expressed his gratitude, and visited classes to answer questions from the students.


In October 2017, Trinity donated 50 previously used iPads to Achungo Children’s Center.


This week, Pal Thinnappan was stripping all the old data from 50 previously used iPads and preparing to have them sent to Achungo Children’s Center.


On the donated laptops, Word and Excel applications and been installed as has been Khan Academy Lights for math practice.


2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and to be continued.


Sure, Kenya is far away, and we have social problems right in our own cities. Space and intent of this missive limits the narrative for now. Still, I do have two binders right next to me, representing Student-Teacher Leadership Team (STLT), spanning each grade from Kindergarten to 5th, from the last two school years, where service learning is happening near and far. I’ll write about that later in the year.


For now, know altruism and service learning begins very young at Trinity. Trinity’s previously used technology just doesn’t get heaped into a recycling heap (where my MacIntosh Classic likely ended up) but rather gets sent to people who need it. This is intentional.


In 1991, as a graduate student, I couldn’t begin to get my MacIntosh to even work across the street in New York City and only cared if it worked for me. Starting in 2011, Trinity students partnered with a school nearly 10,000 miles away with $100 and a gesture of goodwill. Since then, between 2013 and 2018, Trinity has sent over 130 iPads and Apple laptops, loaded with applications to Achungo Children’s School.


Altruism: “Unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.” I think we’re always working toward that at Trinity School, at all grade levels, and will continue to do so. Stay tuned.




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