To a defense and electronics company, a 5-year-old computer is a clumsy dinosaur nearing the end of its useful life.
To a poor child, it is a treasure.
That is the thinking that led Victor Rios, president of ITT Gilfillan, a Van Nuys company that makes radar for commercial and military uses, to start a computer-training program for children from Langdon Avenue Elementary School in North Hills. When the five-week pilot program is finished, 10 children will take their computers home to keep.
“I just want to cry,” said Soledad Campa, a single mother who has six children between the ages of 11 and 21, including a 12-year-old daughter who participated in the program. “This will help all of my children. I would never be able to buy it.”
The idea is one that Rios said he hopes will spread across the city, perhaps even the country.
“I know companies face the same dilemma I do about what to do with older computers,” Rios said. “We can put them to better use. We can plant a seed for the future.”
In the past, the bulk of the company’s computers no longer needed were sold to surplus dealers.
Now, through a partnership with an after-school enrichment program at Langdon called L.A.'s BEST, or Better Educated Students for Tomorrow, the company will eventually donate about 100 computers to the school and to individual children there. “The only thing we have is our kids,” Rios said. “What better way of helping them?”
The children will not be presented with the computers they have been using in classes taught by ITT volunteers until graduation from the program May 10.
But in a presentation at ITT on Thursday, company representatives told the children’s parents so they could make space for the computers in their homes.
“This is a beautiful surprise,” said Lourdes Cortez, whose 10-year-old son, Bryan Quijano, is in the program. “I am so proud of my son.”
After being told of the computer gift, the parents joined their children in a narrow training room and gathered around an island of computers as the students showed off their word-processing skills.
“Learning computers is very interesting,” said 11-year-old Linda Briones, swinging her legs excitedly under her chair when the lesson was finished. “It will help me a whole bunch in school.”