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LAHS student's volunteerism earns Congressional Award Gold Medal


Courtesy of Fritz PhotoGraphics
Terence Lee, center, wearing his Congressional Award Gold Medal, is flanked by Congressional Award Chairman Paxton K. Baker, left, and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu.

With Silicon Valley hailed as the technology capital of the world, it would seem just about everyone here owns a computer. It’s a necessity for most – required to type up a resume, send an email to a co-worker or conduct online research for an essay.

For some people, however, a computer is a luxury they cannot afford.

Los Altos resident Terence Lee hopes to fix that. For his Boy Scout Eagle Service Project, Lee organized a program to recycle, refurbish and redeploy unwanted computers to help educate underprivileged youth at the San Jose-based nonprofit Sunday Friends, a recipient of the Town Crier Holiday Fund.

The Los Altos High rising junior recently earned a Congressional Award Gold Medal for logging more than 400 hours of public service work on the project. He received his award from U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu June 16 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Lee was one of only two recipients of the award from California’s 18th congressional district.

“It definitely gave me a sense of achievement for the many hours of work involved with the program,” Lee said. “The ultimate goal for me was to be able to help make a difference in our local community by providing assistance to those with education needs. I was also very grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community.”

The joy of giving

The project not only fosters computer literacy in underprivileged youth, but it also reduces the number of unwanted computers in landfills.

Lee has received 90 laptops since launching the project in July 2015 and has refurbished and donated 30 of them. Fifteen of the donated computers are on loan for underprivileged youth to use at home, while the other half are used for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes at Sunday Friends.

“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when presented with the laptops for the loan program was extremely touching for me,” Lee said. “It brings a lot of joy to me knowing that kids from low-income families, who typically do not have easy access to computers, will now be able to use these redeployed laptops and take advantage of the many excellent online educational programs.”

According to Lee, those computers that can’t be salvaged would be properly recycled.

Lee said the project is more than a one-man operation. He is aided by several organizations, including Sunday Friends, Los Altos Boy Scout Troop 31, Los Altos Lutheran Church and local business owners.

“I also felt the award was received on behalf of everyone who had generously provided help and encouragement, as this service project would not have been possible without the support of the community at large,” he said.

By recently launching a nonprofit organization – EqOpTech Inc., short for Equal Opportunity Technology – Lee is able to ask for financial support from businesses. He said this would allow him to expand on the services at Sunday Friends and hopefully branch out to other Bay Area locations. With support from sponsors, Lee also hopes to launch a scholarship fund to encourage students to strive for academic excellence.

“Our goal is to expand the education enrichment services to mentorship programs and allow our volunteers to teach and to serve as role models for underprivileged kids in STEM outreach,” he said.

Lee provided words of encouragement for others looking to start their own voluntary public service projects.

“It is important to find your passion and explore your interests and ideas,” he advised. “Following your passion and dreams are important toward making an impact in the world. Focus on making a difference and to better someone’s life regardless of how big or small. Equally important, be a role model and inspire others to join in on the effort.”

Correction: the original caption for this story misidentified U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu.

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