Dickenson Elementary School is located across the street from Berkeley. It is a Title 1 school where 85 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Their access to updated computer hardware and software is limited to say the least. When Koch was made aware of this, he took it upon himself to raise enough funds to purchase computers for the school. He reached out to family and friends seeking any amount they were willing to give. He even gave $1,500 of his own savings as a challenge to donors offering to match that amount. He eventually raised $5,200 to put his goal into action. A self-described technology junkie, Koch feels that all students, regardless of financial limitations, deserve to have access to technology that can help them learn.
His mission became a reality this week when he delivered 16 Hewlett Packard laptops to Dickenson Elementary that he purchased as a result of his fundraising efforts. Koch thought he would quietly drop off the computers to the school’s computer lab and return to class. Little did he know that some very eager Dickenson kindergartners, his parents, teachers and several members of the Berkeley administration would be on hand to surprise and congratulate him for his generosity.
Not only did Koch raise enough funds to purchase the 16 laptops, he also has provided funding to have each computer loaded with the $55 Hillsborough County Schools software bundle. Needless to say, he was surprised by the reception he received, but nothing compares to the surprise the school’s Vice Principal Ryan Moody had when a 17-year-old kid gave his school this gift – unsolicited – simply out of the kindness of his heart.
His gift to Dickenson was inspired by a project in Dr. Thom Morris’ AP Calculus class at the beginning of the year that challenged students to make a difference in someone’s life. The assignment required the students to submit progress reports, video documentation and a final outcome report.
Koch made the assignment his personal mission to improve the lives of many people. By combining his love of technology and wanting to share it with others, he set out to see who locally could benefit from a gift of laptop computers. He became aware of a need at Dickenson Elementary while serving as a bilingual translator for a parent-teacher conference at the school. He simply asked the school’s vice principal, “What do you need most and how can I help,” explained Kim Lawless, Berkeley’s director of community engagement and service learning. When the vice principal shared with Koch and Lawless that the students desperately needed laptop computers to be shared among the school’s classrooms, he was a bit skeptical of how Koch could help Dickenson. That skepticism quickly vanished once he began working with Koch and saw how determined he was to get Dickenson what they needed.
“Jack is simply an awesome kid,” Moody said. “I can’t tell you how much this means to our school and these students.”
Earlier this year, Koch was recognized by the Florida Holocaust Museum as a recipient of the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award, which recognizes students who make a conscious decision to spend their time improving the lives of others. Koch is a relatively new student at Berkeley and brings with him a history of generous efforts on his part to share technology with others. Prior to moving to Tampa, he began his own non-profit in Boca Raton called BYTE or Bringing Youth Technology Everywhere. BYTE’s mission is to do just that. “I have always been interested in technology. It has provided me with countless opportunities. None of them is more important than the immense help it has provided me with my schoolwork,” said Koch. “For today’s students, having a computer and access to the Internet is a crucial part of completing schoolwork.”