Promoting inclusion and mental well-being | Promouvoir l’inclusion et le mieux-être mental
Inspirations Articles

Huntingdon teachers create computer refurbishing program

Huntingdon teachers create computer refurbishing program
Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre’s computer refurbishing team at the centre on April 26. From left: Teacher Kathleen Hackett, students Amélie Schillaci, Christopher Deschamps, Sheldon Goundrey, Stephanie Latreille, Caleb Abbott, Jeremy Caron, teacher Michael Werenchuk and student Gerry Caravias. Photo: Laurie Finlayson
Friday, May 31, 2024

Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre teachers Michael Werenchuk and Kathleen Hackett did not anticipate the sweeping impact of a computer refurbishing program when the idea first took off two years ago. Now, with truckloads of e-waste saved, a classroom of students equipped with computer refurbishing skills and nearly 300 laptops redistributed to community members for free, the program has made a wide- ranging splash throughout the town an hour south of Montreal.

It is this work that earned Werenchuk and Hackett this edition’s Inspirations Entrepreneurial Award.

The program at this New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) school started as a computer recycling activity that Werenchuk introduced into the curriculum for the Social Integration Services (SIS) Program for adults with special needs. Werenchuk developed learning and evaluation criteria based on the activity since it calls on a number of competencies like problem solving, communication and fine motor skills. Using old computers from the school, Werenchuk had his students disassemble the devices and sort the parts for recycling.

The activity began transforming when Hackett got involved by reaching out to local businesses to donate their old computers. Laptops viable for refurbishing started streaming into Werenchuk’s classroom, so they launched into fixing and cleaning them using online resources for guidance. Once restored to working condition, Hackett organized to have them given away for free to students in need. “We do live in an economically depressed area,” Hackett said. “And it’s always shocking how many students need these laptops.”

Supportive of the initiative, the NFSB has been sending Werenchuk computers since 2016. It encourages all of its schools to send old laptops, printers and desktops to Werenchuk’s classroom to keep the program growing. “We’d either like to teach other school boards how to do this or do it for them,” Werenchuk said.

While internet access is becoming increasingly crucial in the digital era, this is even more true for rural areas, like Huntingdon. From doctors’ appointments to driving lessons, options are limited in the country, and having a computer and internet access makes a world of difference. “It can be a lifeline for people that need a home- work machine,” Werenchuk said. “They’re really designed for getting your stuff done online...Whatever kids need for basically working.”

With no formal background in IT or tech, Werenchuk and Hackett are simply motivated by taking care of their community. “It’s the joy of the people who get [a laptop],” Hackett said. Meanwhile, the SIS students, who Hackett said have taken ownership of the computer refurbishing program, take great pride in their work as well. “They know what they’re doing,” Hackett said. “They see [the good that] they’re doing, and we give them credit
for it.”

Nominate your Entrepreneur at