When the kids first saw it, they were stunned.
Cries of “Awesome!!” and “Omigod” surfaced immediately when Encino’s Hesby Oaks School’s brand new computer lab was revealed today in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. There, in a room once used only for storage, was a brand-new, shining computer lab, containing 41 identical Apple PCs, each with a big monitor.
Each computer was on, with beautiful desktop photos of wild animals illumiated on them in rich and vibrant HD colors.
“This is so much nicer than the computer I have at home!’ said 5th-grader Morgan Wespiser. “I can’t believe it!” The Student Council president, Morgan represented her entire grade, and reported that they would be happy. “Everyone’s gonna love this!”
Friend, fellow fifth-grader and Student Council Secretary Jess Groly agreed: “Yeah! This is really cool!”
Present at the ribbon-cutting were about 20 students, several teachers, several parents and members of Hesby Involved Parents (HIP), two LAPD officers, Field Deputy Jeffrey Ebenstein from Councilman Koretz’s office, Steve Zimmer of the School Board, Perin Lal of Computerwisekids, and many members of the press.
The creation of the computer lab here is the result of the diligence of several parents who recognized the need and set out to raise the money – and involve key volunteers – to make it happen.
Heather Thompson, the mother of Charlotte, a second-grader, and active member of HIP), organized her fellow parents to team up on this project, designating all of the money raised at last year’s annual Gala and Silent Auction for the creation of this new computer lab.
The parents had to raise a substantial amount of money to achieve this goal. The past year’s Silent Auction earned more than expected, and this dream began to be realized.
A total of $65,000 was ultimately raised, all of which went towards the purchase of the new computers, new hardware and software, and their installation – plus the cost of renovating the space, electricity and internet access.
“That internet connection,” explained Heather, ”was not donated by the LAUSD. Though we asked them to donate it. They are charging us about $20,000 a year for that.”
The $65,000 went mostly for the purchase of the supplies; all the expertise necessary to design the room, wire it and install all the computers was volunteered, primarily from two parents: Giulio Zavolta, who designed the lab, and Arye Smilovici, who built it.
Zavolta, the father of kids in the 2nd and 4th grades, is the Principal of Totum Consulting, who provide consultation on integrated design, construction, management and sustainability. He envisioned the wisest use of the space, and designed a comfortable work area, rich with natural light, that creates 41 separate work areas.
Smilovici, whose two kids are in the 3rd and 5th grades, said that his work was on and off, depending o his schedule and the arrival of the textiles and other material, and probably encompassed just over 60 hours.
“It was a big job,” he said with a smile. “But worth it. I know how much this is gonna mean to the kids.”
All of the Hesby Oaks student population will have access to the computer lab, and will participate in a curriculum designed in tandem with Perin Lal, the director of Computerwisekids Inc.
“Kids today already know how to use a computer,” she acknowledged. “They grow up with them. They know how to Google things and look up what they want to. But here’s a lot more for them to learn, and we have designed courses that educate them in all facets of computer work.”
Courses teaching the language of HTML, PowerPoint, Excel, I-movies, animation and more will be offered, she explained.
“We also teach them about Internet safety, and educate them and their families about how best to navigate the Internet, for privacy and safety.”
“For example,” she continued, “we teach them how to express themselves creatively on the Internet but always with safety in mind. We show them they can share their artwork – drawings, music, photographs – without sharing private details of their lives, like where they went for breakfast.”
“Investments like this in education,” said Steve Zimmer of the school board, “are investments in America. We need more. We see that countries like Singapore, that have invested a lot in the education of their youth, are triumphing economically. These students are the future of this country, and the work these parents did to provide this for the enrichment of their education, and that of so many students to come, is invaluable.”