East Gainesville children get free computers


Nekeisha Sutton, center, receives her free computer printer from Verna Johnson, left. Nekeisha was the first reader in the group to finish her 25 books. The reading program is a project of U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville.

BRAD McCLENNY/ Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 5:24 p.m.

U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Jacksonville whose district includes east Gainesville, has taken another step for youngsters in her district.

On Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Sharing & Caring Learning Center in southeast Gainesville, 17 children from Woodlawn Park, Carver Gardens and the Lake Road communities received free refurbished computers and printers for participating in a book reading program sponsored by Brown's office.

"This is a proud moment," said Janie Williams, a member of the Alachua County School Board. "I was here when the program began. We are at the cutting edge with what we have taken on."

Williams also said she hopes the computers will have a positive impact on the children's lives. She also encouraged the children to take advantage of the opportunities they have to get a good education.

"Education is something that can't be taken from anybody," Williams said.

Each child had to read at least 25 books and do a book report on each book they read. They had mentors to help them and the mentors verified that the children had done what was required. Members of the Alpha Iota chapter of Eta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. served as mentors for the children.

The program targets students in third- through sixth-grade.

"It has brought joy to my heart that we can do this in the season of giving," said Evelyn Foxx, a member of Eta Phi Beta. "It's good to see children getting excited about reading. Hopefully, this can become a yearly thing."

The mentors met with the students once a week for the past several months, helping them to choose their books, discussing the books with them and reading through the essays each child wrote after completing a book.

Books were provided by the Alachua County Library District.

Brown started the program in Jacksonville in 2006 and introduced it in Gainesville at the grand opening of Tiger Bay Apartment Homes in southeast Gainesville. Twenty-five students who live in Eden Park at Ironwood received computers in November after completing the program.

Brown also has given 630 computers to students in Jacksonville and 100 computers to students in Orlando.

Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut spoke on behalf of Brown and also recognized members of Eta Phi Beta by asking them to stand.

"It is a pleasure to stand in for Rep. Brown," said Chestnut. "I want to congratulate each of you. Your library card is your passport to explore the world."

Derrick Graham, a fifth-grader at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy, said he enjoyed the program.

"It was fun, and we are going to get free computers," Graham said, smiling. "My mother told me about the importance of reading books. I will read for a lifetime."

The computers were provided by VyStar Credit Union and Comcast Cable, both of Jacksonville, and the printers were provided by Wal-Mart.

For more information, call Brown's local office at (352) 376-6476.

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