Kramden in the News: 2nd Annual Wells Fargo Geek-a-Thon


Wells Fargo teams up with WinstonNet and

Kramden Institute for 2nd annual project

From the Camel City Dispatch

Team member volunteers from Wells Fargo will award over 100 computers to deserving students from Forsyth County schools without access to a working home computer on Saturday, October 1, 2016.


Approximately 200 team members from Wells Fargo will volunteer their time on Thursday and Friday at the Milton Rhodes Art Center to refurbish desktop computers during a three-day “Geek-A-Thon” sponsored by Wells Fargo and organized by the Kramden Institute and WinstonNet. The goal is to refurbish and award 100 of these computers to local school children without a home computer of their own. The rest of the refurbished computers will be awarded to students and organizations across North Carolina.

Kramden Institute, a Durham-based nonprofit whose mission is to provide technology tools and training to bridge the digital divide, brought hundreds of computers along with their staff to lead and guide the Wells Fargo volunteers through the Institute’s intense three-day “Geek-A-Thon” computer refurbishing process.

“We take pride in supporting and collaborating with WinstonNet, Kramden Institute and our Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Schools on this important initiative,” said Peggy Reingold, Wells Fargo’s community affairs officer. “The prosperity of young people is a critical element in a strong and thriving community, and Wells Fargo is committed to providing the students of Forsyth County with every possible resource to achieve long-term success. Our goal is to help build strong and vibrant communities, improve the quality of life and make a positive difference.”

The “Geek-A-Thon” will conclude on Saturday when over one hundred local students and their families arrive at the Rhodes Center to receive their computers. Wells Fargo volunteers will train the students on their new computers and show them some of the many educational programs pre-loaded on the machines.


“Kramden is thrilled to once again partner with Wells Fargo and WinstonNet on behalf of students across Forsyth County. The success of last year’s Geek-A-Thon surpassed everybody’s expectations and we’re excited to again bring hundreds of volunteers together to refurbish computers for student’s personal, home use,” said Michael Abensour, Executive Director of the Kramden Institute. “There is simply nothing better than awarding these computers to over a hundred deserving students on Saturday and helping to close the digital divide one family at a time.”

Jim DeCristo, Chair of the WinstonNet Board, said “Last year was a great success.  We are thrilled to build on that success with Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo deserves special recognition for investing so much of their employee’s time towards such a worthy cause.  We know that putting a computer into a home changes lives and, as with last year’s event, the benefits will affect at least 100 families in our community.”

The students were nominated as a result of a partnership between WinstonNet, a local non-profit dedicated to bridging the digital divide in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

The original article can be found here.

Virginia Beach Recycle Drive & WTKR Interview

On Saturday, September 17th, Kramden Institute held a recycle drive in Virginia Beach, VA in partnership with Southern Bank. It was our second recycle drive in Virginia Beach and our third sponsored by Southern Bank. 98 desktops, 20 laptops, and 45 monitors were collected at the event.

Southern Bank promoted the recycle drive through TV ads on WTKR, the CBS affiliate in the Virginia Beach area. As part of the promotion, Kramden was featured on the Coast Live show to talk about our work and the (then) upcoming event.

Read more here


Johnston County Students Receive Free Computers



By Abbie Bennet, News & Observer
Reposted from the News & Observer

Technology is so prevalent that it’s easy to think all students have access to computers and Internet in their homes, or can get to a library to complete assignments.

But that’s not reality.

“We need a computer for school,” said Marvin Guerrero, an eighth-grader at Selma Middle School. “We use them a lot. It’s hard if you don’t have one or if you can’t get a ride to the library.”

“This is going to be a big help for us,” said Tyisha Melvin, Guerrero’s mom.

Earlier this month, 31 students in grades 3-12 from across Johnston County who attended summer enrichment programs at Selma Middle School received desktop computers to take home. The students attended Selma Middle School STEAM and Summer Reading for Educational Advancement and Development, four-week programs to help enhance learning, prevent summer learning loss and ensure students maintain good nutrition through the summer.

“There’s a technology gap that we want to help address,” said Selma Middle School Teacher of the Year Tarsha Johnson.

The computers were a gift from the Kramden Institute, a Durham nonprofit that helps provide technology and training to students without a computer at home.

Students accepted their computers on Aug. 12, when they also received instruction in how to use them.

Kristina Zuidema, office manager at Kramden, spent time with students and parents teaching them the operating system installed on their new computers – Ubuntu, a Linux-based system. Unlike Windows and other operating systems, Zuidema said Ubuntu was especially resistant to viruses.

Zuidema started with the basics of hardware setup and care, and most of the students were quick studies or already familiar with computers, despite not having one at home.

“I know how to use one,” said Melanie Zavaleta, a sixth-grader. “This is a little different, but it seems really cool.

“I think it’s going to be a big help with my school work,” Zavaleta added.

The computers will benefit more than the students who received them, Kramden officials pointed out. Siblings and parents will benefit too, they said.

“You can use this, but your parents can use it too,” Zuidema said.

Johnson is also president and founder of REACH Our Communities. (REACH is short for Reaching Every Adult and Childhood Hardship.) She nominated the students in the summer enrichment programs to receive a computer from the Kramden Institute.

“They’re really excited, and we’re excited for them,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you’d never know a student lacked this kind of technology at home, and many families take the advantage of having a home computer for granted. It really makes a difference for these students and families.

“The computers will impact not only the kids but their parents too,” Johnson added. “They’ll have an opportunity to use the technology to job search at home. That’s important in helping our families be successful.”

Computers are prolific, and making sure that these students and their families have access to technology was key, said Cari DelMariani, director of programs for the Kramden Institute.

“Computers are so essential for students today,” she said. “ It’s pretty much impossible for them to be able to keep up if they don’t have some type of technology in their home.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come provide that technology to so many students.”

The computers came installed with more than 60 programs for students to use, including educational programs, web browsers and software for editing photos, audio and video.

Kramden also provides technical support for the computers for as long as the students are in school, Zuidema said.

“So you can call us if you have any problems and we can help you out,” she said. “We’re here for you if you need us.”

“We make sure the students know how to use all the programs on the computers so that they can fully use their new technology when they get home,” DelMariani said.

Students and parents carefully carried their monitors, towers, keyboards and mice to their cars after learning how to use them.

“It’s important to have a computer at home so that I can learn all year and not just at school,” said Malachi McDuffie, a seventh-grader.

“As a teacher at Selma Middle School, I see firsthand the obstacles that our students face every day,” Johnson said. “We (REACH Our Communities) are here to provide support to the students and the families by equipping them with the resources and knowledge that they need to overcome these obstacles. We want our communities to be safe and full of productive, law-abiding citizens, and the only way I know to ensure that is to educate the kids and their parents. This is our goal.”

Read more here


Job Seeking in the Digital Age Class Graduates

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Berthe receives her certificate from Marshall Burkes, Technology Education Coordinator at Kramden Institute, and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.

Kramden Institute and the Town of Chapel Hill completed the graduation of the second ‘Job Seeking in the Digital Age’ course at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Thursday, June 2.

Thirty adults from Chapel Hill public housing communities have now completed the course. Participants spend four weeks learning about online career resources, how to write an effective resumé and cover letter, the best ways to submit  job applications online and via email, and how to present themselves professionally in interviews and on social media.

Graduates receive a free laptop upon graduating from the course. The class and laptops were sponsored by Google Fiber.

The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Pam Hemminger, addressed the graduates in a congratulations speech and presented certificates to graduates. Berthe, a participant in multiple Kramden classes, hugged Hemminger as she received her certificate.

“Because I love the class so much I’m here a second time,” Berthe said. “[The course] has made me feel better so I don’t need to find jobs posted on the street. I can now go online to find them.”

Berthe loves the library, and she keeps library cards for herself and her six children. She was excited when she learned about this job readiness class, since she enjoyed her experience in Kramden’s Digital Literacy class last year.

Chris, who is currently working in the food industry and is an aspiring writer/blogger, looks forward to using his computer for a job search and writing practice.

During the final class session, Shannon Bailey, a reference librarian at the Chapel Hill Public Library, spoke about how to get a library card and showed students how to access the library portals to and


Kramden goes to Costa Rica

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Jason Ricker, Kramden’s Director of Technical Operations, shows a group of students how to use some of the apps on their new tablets.

Kramden Institute partnered with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to award 101 laptops and 60 tablets to students at nine schools in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica. For most of the students, this is the first time they have had access to technology and educational apps.

Each school received training on how to use and care for the equipment during a 30-minute orientation led by Costa Rican native, Henry Vargas. Vargas has been trained by Kramden on the refurbishing process and operating system and has completed the Kramden Digital Literacy Curriculum. He will revisit all nine schools in three months to conduct training workshops and repair any equipment.

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Students and teachers pose with their tablets and computers on the front steps of their school.

Jason Ricker, Director of Technical Operations at Kramden Institute, was able to award the computers and tablets to the students. “The biggest impact was getting technology into the hands of students with no access,” he said. “There are some schools where the only technology is the teacher’s smart phone,” Ricker said.


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Kramden volunteer Erica Ricker gathers an audience for a quick demonstration of the tablet.

All computers featured the Spanish language version of the Ubermix operating system. This is the second year that Kramden and the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club have worked together to bring computers to Alajuela.

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Kramden laptops set up in a classroom at one of the schools.

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Students take turns using a demonstration tablet to play an educational game.

Kramden Won a STEMmy Award!

STEMmy award

Last night, Kramden was honored as the Youth Serving Organization of the Year by US 2020 RTP at the first annual STEMmy Awards. Also known as the Golden Gears, the STEMmy Awards honor individuals, organizations, and partners for their amazing work and contributions in making science, technology, engineering, and math more accessible for low-income, minority, and female students around the Triangle. Kramden was selected as a “nonprofit that connects youth in the community to a variety of engaging STEM opportunities.”

Other STEMmy winners include:

  • Student of the Year K-8: Mansi Goyal, Hunter GT/AIG Basics Magnet Elementary, Grade 5
  • Student of the Year 9-16: Joanna McDonald, Green Hope High School, Grade 11
  • STEM School of the Year, Lowes Grove Middle School
  • Mentor of the Year, Kenneth Lyle, Duke University
  • Higher Ed Department of the Year, Kenan Fellows Program, NC State University
  • STEM Industry Partner of the Year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RTP
  • RTPi3 Essay Contest Winner- Benjamin Warlick, Charles D. Owen High School, Buncombe County

Ashlyn VanDine is Geek of the Week!



Ashlyn VanDine is Kramden’s Geek of the Week! Ashlyn has been volunteering with Kramden for the last year and a half and is a regular at our Wednesday Work Nights. For her Girl Scout Silver Award project, she helped launch the Coders Club at Kramden, a monthly meeting for students in grades 6-8 to learn the basics of coding. Ashlyn’s volunteer work was recently featured in an article she wrote for


Favorite Geek Books: The Found series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Favorite Geek Website:

Favorite Geek Movie: Hunger Games

Favorite Geek TV Show: Doctor Who

What is the Geekiest Think About You? I love books and often choose to read instead of socializing

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? The fact that the computers that we refurbish go to kids that need a computer. 

Best Kramden Moment?My first time doing Triage and learning from my dad how everything worked. 

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? I play softball for my school team (Rams ROCK!), hanging out with my friends, sleeping or reading. 




Kramden in the News: Fixing Computers for Good

By Bridgette A. Lacy, News from RTP

When fourth-grader Willie Shaw brought home a refurbished computer, it came packed with a gateway of opportunity.

The computer comes with an open source operating system called Ubermix that is less vulnerable to viruses and malware. In addition, the computer is loaded with more than 60 programs including LibreOffice, an office suite similar to Microsoft Office; Scratch, a free programming language where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations; Stellarium, a virtual planetarium; and Audacity, an audio editor.

Willie is just one of thousands of students awarded a computer by Kramden Institute.  Kramden was founded in July 2003 by Mark and Ned Dibner, a father and son. “Kramden” is ‘Mark’ and ‘Ned’ spelled backwards. The idea came from Ned, then 13, who suggested to his father that they refurbish and fix older computers to donate to middle school honor-roll students in Durham who could not afford home computers.

The two-person operation that started with 90 personal computers and 50 monitors has grown substantially. Kramden Institute now has 30 Super Geeks, a 10-member management team and 1,000 volunteers including retirees and Research Triangle Park employees.

It has awarded more than 22,800 computers to deserving students across 78 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Kramden partners with numerous schools, other non-profits and military aid organizations across the state to award computers to those struggling to bridge the digital divide.

For Willie Shaw and his siblings, a computer becomes a window to a world beyond his modest circumstances. It opens doors to people, places and possibilities beyond their immediate environment.

“It’s pretty awesome,” says Willie’s mother, Kelly Hayes. She explains that Willie shares the computer with his older sister, Jazmine and his younger brother, Brandon.  “I didn’t realize how many programs were already on it,” she says.

Like Willie’s teacher in Northeast Raleigh, Rodney L. Smith, an assistant principal of Apex Middle School in Apex, has witnessed the impact giving a computer to a student can make. “Having access puts everyone on the same playing field,” he says. “Having a computer is now is like having a pencil.”

Smith has been recommending students to Kramden Institute for the last three years.

He explains that while the students who receive the computer are already high achievers, their grades often go up immediately because of all the learning programs they now have access too.

Don Rowe, a MetLife IT vendor management consultant, and Kramden team management volunteer, says he’s almost brought to tears when he helps pass out computers to students and their families.

“It’s like Christmas for them and they just got the toy they always wanted,” he says. He understands that for some parts of society, a computer is common place, but that this is not the case for everyone.

At one event, he recalls a mother’s handwritten thank-you note in her native Spanish language expressing her appreciation for a computer for her son. She wrote that the laptop was going to help her son who was a hard-worker but struggling in some of his subjects.

It’s those heart-warming stories that keep Rowe donating his time and resources to Kramden. In 2009, he started refurbishing computers for them. Eventually, he went from giving his 20 hours there to assisting them in charting a plan to get more corporate donations instead of relying so much on government grants, which were drying up.

Last year, MetLife donated 400 laptops and 600 desktops and monitors. The MetLife Foundation also contributed a $25,000 grant. Rowe also organizes MetLife’s volunteers for Wednesday work nights refurbishing computer sessions, normally they have 6 per year.

Rowe, the son of a social worker, said he was taught by his mother to volunteer his time early in life. He likes encouraging others to do so as well. Last year, more than 250 MetLife volunteers took part in the “Geek-A-Thon,” refurbishing 400 computers, and loading them with an Ubermix operating system and the latest in educational software.

Kramden offers a chance for any individual or corporation to get involved. Lisa Jemision, director of RTP Programs, says Kramden Institute gives residents a place to recycle their electronics and an opportunity to help those in their community with digital literacy.

Discarded, old computers may contain up to 8 pounds of lead along with lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other toxic chemical. So recycling them makes it safer for the environment.

Meanwhile, disadvantage families can benefit from having a refurbished computer in the home. “We are bridging the digital divide,” Jemison says.


The original article can be found here.

Durham County Government Technology Finds a Second Life


Durham County replaces computers, laptops, and tablets every four years rotating between departments from year to year. Could you imagine these devices (almost 1,800) going to waste? They don’t! Through programs developed with community partners this technology goes back to the residents of Durham.

In 2007, finding new homes for surplus computers was a priority for the Durham Board of County Commissioners. Headed by Aaron Stone, Computers 4 Kids, was born.  Computers 4 Kids is a collaborative initiative between Durham County, United Way of the Greater Triangle, the Volunteer Center of Durham, and the Durham Public School System.

These programs go to the heart of why we work in local government. They allows us to give back to this great community.
-Aaron Stone, Durham County, Manager of Client Support Services

United Way refurbished donated computers from Durham County which were provided to students of Durham Public Schools. Students between the ages of 8 and 12 were referred to the program by the Department of Social Services, school social workers, teachers, tutors or the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

Garnering attention across North Carolina, Computers 4 Kids was recognized by United way in 2009 with a “Closing the Achievement Gap” award. In 2010, The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners awarded Durham County “Outstanding County Program”. Computers 4 Kids also beat out many other state programs and won the “2011 NCLGISA Demo Slam” event and in 2012 won a quarterly NCLGISA “Government Innovation Grant Award”. Computers 4 Kids rapidly outgrew the available resources Durham County had available. The program ended and new donation initiatives emerged.

Assistant County Manager Drew Cummings proposed a partnership with Triangle Ecycling. Triangle Ecycling’s model provides a free educational opportunity for youth. High school students receive hands on experience in Triangle Ecycling’s shop refurbishing computers while learning environmental and humanitarian issues related to e-waste and sustainable business models. These refurbished computers are then donated or sold locally at below market prices in support of the program.

For Durham County, Triangle Ecycling manages logistics, security, and disposition of the County’s donated computers. Specific Durham nonprofits that support Durham Public School students and families are sought out to receive the County’s surplus of computers. Any computers deemed too outdated or unfit for refurbishment have all their data destroyed and recycled pursuant to R2 recycling standards.

Durham County Social Services Director, Michael Becketts recommended Durham County’s newest technology partner, Kramden Institute, Inc. Kramden Institute offers programs that encompass free computers for students in grades 3-12 and classes for anyone ages 8 and up in basic computer literacy to advanced programming.

Kramden Institute also engages with Tech Community Partners and Tech Equipment Partners. The Tech Community Partners program is specifically for non-student populations. Clients receiving services from a list of non-profit agencies are eligible to participate and obtain a reduced cost desktop or laptop with a preinstalled OS and other software as a Community Partner.

 “The equipment donated by Durham County has allowed us to bridge the digital divide both in Durham and across the state of North Carolina. In Durham County in 2015 alone Kramden awarded 560 desktops to students without a home computer and provided 454 desktops and laptops to Durham County based non-profit organizations, churches, and charter schools.We look forward to a continuing partnership and the great things we can do together including expanding the pilot project with NCCU.”
     – Jason Ricker, Director of Technical Operations, Kramden Institute, Inc.

On February 26th, 2016 Kramden Institute provided 100 laptops (91 from Durham County) to North Carolina Central University students as part of an initiative to support successful degree completion.

Durham County Information Services & Technology is proud to have the opportunity to give back where possible. These programs would not have reached this level of success if not for our partners. It is Durham County’s hope these programs will have a positive impact for Durham County’s citizens and an influence for years to come.

Original article can be found here

Meet a Computer Recipient – Gabrielle from NCCU

Since our founding in 2003, Kramden has awarded more than 23,000 computers across North Carolina through our three hardware programs. This has only been possible through the generosity of our supporters and the tireless efforts of our amazing volunteers. As a way of saying ‘Thank You’, we will be sharing the stories of some of the individuals who have been awarded by Kramden.

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Gabrielle* is a Senior at North Carolina Central University studying criminal justice. Growing up, she did not have access to a home computer and would go to the school or local library to complete assignments for school. She continued this routine for her first three years of college, crossing campus every day to use computers in the NCCU library.

In February, Gabrielle and 100 other students taking online classes at NCCU received laptop computers through a partnership between the university and Kramden. Having her own computer for the first time, she told us how much she enjoys the ability to work on school assignments from her apartment rather than trekking across campus.  She now uses the extra time to work on her crafts and wants to learn how to build websites so that she can sell her work online in the future.


*Name changed to protect privacy