Where Recycling Moves Education

Interview With The Owner

Today I met with the owner of College Potatoes and asked her some important questions. You may find this interview helpful in understanding the nonprofit's leader.

Erika, "Hello [omitted] how are you?"

[omitted], "Fine, how are you?"

Erika, "I have some questions for you about your student computer donation charity. Do you mind?"

[omitted], "Fire-away."

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Q: How did you become involved with this organization?

A: I was homeless, living on the streets as I attended community college in Oregon, when I received a scholarship to attend a University in Boston. It covered transportation and it was my chance to newly begin my life again. When I arrived here, I realized my scholarship did not include housing, I was homeless again. I lived in Harvard, before settling in at the Pine Street Inn downtown. It isn't what people think, there aren't murderer's or dangerous people in the shelters. Most of the people I met were doctors, lawyers, highly educated, and suffering from mental illness or physical disabilities.

Oddly, I met other homeless students and we became friends. We couldn't keep up in classes because we didn't have a laptop and cellphone. We all saved $2 or $3 until we could afford a cheap laptop for our freshman year in college. As one semester ended and another one began, new homeless students appeared. Again, we'd save money, $2 or $3 each, and bought another laptop. It was truly shocking how many homeless students we met.

After our freshman year, we all realized there was a demand and need to help people just like us. Eventually, our group became larger and we all became juniors in different colleges. I started up College Potatoes, since college students are essentially couch potatoes, and created it as a public nonprofit technology charity to assist disabled and/or poor students. Any age, any gender, from anywhere on Earth.

Q: Can you tell me about the work your organization does and the program or programs you run?

A: We run a variety of programs now. Our main program is the technology grant applications available on the website. Random people from Massachusetts donate their old laptops and devices to us and we refurbish, delete the data, and reformat them for the next student.

Another program is the student repair service. We offer professional computer repair for the grant winners so they can afford to maintain their computers. When a standard device breaks, it can easily cost over $200, however our service gives them choice to pick out and buy their own parts before we install them for $35.

Lastly, there is a Green Program. Instead of sending broken parts to a landfill, we put them under a microscope, fix them, and place them in a grant computer. The computer is tested for performance and then sent back out. This keeps a lot of toxic computer metals and chemicals from entering landfills. It might not seem like much, but most of the toxic waste in America is from computer parts. This problem isn't localized to America, toxic computer waste dumps are all over the world. Just Google "Toxic Computer Waste Dumps."

Q: What results does your organization achieve? How has your program improved over time?

A: Our goal is to change the lives of other people in a beneficial and positive manner and improve their future. The grant winners are able to compete, given the tools, and taught how to use their devices to produce and develop quality work.

A: Over time, we have expanded outside of Massachusetts, partnered with other nonprofits and expanded our reach outside of our state. We see traffic from all over the Globe, so we want to continue to improve our programs internationally.

Q: What proportion of your revenue for next year will come from similar sources to this year’s revenue? Do you have plans to increase this consistency over time?

A: Our original revenue came from educational foundation grants and the rest from tangible donations. We hope to receive a larger amount to help our core program support, however we need cash donors and methods to pay for repair parts in each grant tool.

A: The consistency will increase over time as we are expanding research and development in funding resources.

Q: Where is your leadership team strong, and where does it need development?

A: I am the founder and only board member now. I had a team, but after some moral developments and even theft, other board members left. I have strong experience developing efficient operations, managing contracts, and working with high level project proposals.

Public Relations Director: Someone to take the public eye, someone who can do public relations with an ingenius and extremely extroverted ease.

Marketing and Donor Management: People who know how to advertise and maintain excellent customer service support.

You can see the rest of our available positions under the Volunteer tab.

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Emily, "Is there anything else you feel we should know?"

[omitted], "I want awareness to spread about impoverished and disabled students. There is heavy discrimination and unfair treatment in society blocking them from personal improvement. People take their technology for granted, once something becomes outdated, people trash it instead of moving someone else forward."

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