Thirty high school students from Shoal Lake and Strathclair each recently received a refurbished laptop thanks to a joint initiative by Shoal Lake School alumna Jennifer Stefansson and Richardson International Limited.
The new program is for high school graduates who have contributed to their community but do not have a laptop and intend to pursue post-secondary education. It gives them a chance to apply for and receive one, internet ready and free of charge courtesy of Richardson International in partnership with the schools.
“Richardson, being a highly philanthropic company, saw the value in what my goal was,” said Stefansson. “Although I was no longer an active employee when the program first kicked off, it has continued to support me in this program. Richardson has added extra value to the program by including new laptop backpacks with each laptop distributed. Its support has been truly amazing!”
The former 13-year Richardson employee came up with the idea after she became aware of the surplus laptops the company had retired to stay abreast of technology. They were perfectly good but just a little past their prime for company use. Stefansson knew the company had donated laptops to other worthy organizations over the years, and because of her background as a school trustee, supporter of the United Way, and a struggling student at one time herself, she came up with a plan to recycle the laptops and help out fledgling students at the same time.
“After completing high school (in 1998), I moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba. Attending school comes with high costs — tuition, books, and living expenses all add up. I remember saving money in high school so I could buy a computer to help in my studies — something that was integral to my success. As I walked through the university halls in the more recent years, I noticed that most students now bring laptops to class.
“I had heard (and witnessed) stories of financial distress some families go through — where putting food on a table is sometimes a struggle — never mind trying to keep up with technology and having access to tools to help people succeed.”
Stefansson now lives in Lorette, where she conducted a pilot project which distributed 30 laptops in early 2019. The program was so successful that Richardson generously donated an additional 50 laptops for other schools. Stefansson chose schools in Shoal Lake and Strathclair, towns that were near and dear because she attended schools there.
“These schools helped to make me the person I am today,” said Stefansson, daughter of Norman and Linda Leschasin of Shoal Lake. “Giving back to the schools was a natural way for me to thank them for setting the foundation I have built upon.”
As well, she is grateful to the Richardson Pioneer facility in Shoal Lake for their guidance, hospitality and the crucial role they played in her career.
“I wanted to give back to the community they service, as my way of saying thank you to them for all they have done for me.”
All requests met
All the students had to do was fill an application form indicating their need and answering two questions on their career aspirations and how they have contributed to their community.
“This is all thanks to Jennifer,” said Beccy Ardiel-Voth, a teacher at Shoal Lake School and grad adviser for the 2018-19 class. “She reached out to us and we were happy to allow our students to participate.
“I am thankful for the generosity of Jennifer and to Richardson International. Post-secondary education is necessary but is not something that all of our students or their families can afford. We are also in a cycle of tossing out our gently used electronics as newer and better items become available. This is an example of how one person’s trash truly can be another person’s treasure.”
To date, everyone who has applied for a laptop has received one. The Shoal Lake/Strathclair initiative was opened up to Grade 11 students as well with 12 laptops distributed to Shoal Lake students and 18 to Strathclair Grade 11 and 12s.
“We greatly appreciate being chosen for this opportunity as it will help us with our future studies in post-secondary education,” said a thankful Corrin Zenchyshyn and Carly Creber, both of Shoal Lake.
Although Stefansson was not on hand for the actual laptop presentations, she plans to keep the project going by expanding to other schools selected, provided Richardson continues to support the program.
“I am grateful to have been raised in a community and by a family that has taught me the importance of contributing and giving back. I feel excited by seeing the effect that positive change has on individuals. Although I am no longer a current employee of the company, I am honoured that Richardson has continued to put its trust in me through this program. I’d like to thank the schools and all involved, for being active participants in making this initiative a success!”