Like many high school seniors, Melanie Ocon is devoting much of December to a time-honored teenage tradition – applying to college. But Ocon faces an extra hardship foreign to many stressed-out applicants: Her family has no computer.
“It does make it a little more difficult to get everything done,” said Ocon, an outgoing Florin High School student. “I usually stay after school and work on the library computers, or try to go to a friend’s house and borrow hers.”
Ocon, 17, hopes to enroll at California State University, Chico, and become an elementary school teacher. She will be the first in her family to graduate from high school – and, if all goes as planned, the first to attend college.
The Center for Land-Based Learning wants to help Ocon and students like her to achieve another first – ownership of a laptop computer. Based in Winters, the nonprofit provides leadership development and college mentoring programs for low-income youths, serving hundreds of kids in the Sacramento region each year.
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“Students like Melanie have worked incredibly hard to overcome barriers and get to a place where they can attend college,” said Karen Swan, the center’s director of youth leadership programs. “Having a laptop would give them confidence and a big head start on succeeding once they’re away at school.”
For years, Swan and other center staff have pooled personal funds to provide the neediest college-bound students in their programs with essentials for dormitory life, from bedding and bathrobes to toiletries and shower caddies. In a few cases, they also managed to equip the kids with laptops.
Jaquay Butler received a used computer – a laptop donated by Swan’s husband – before heading off to Sonoma State University. A graduate of Grant High School and the first of 19 grandchildren to attend college, Butler is a college senior with a double major in Spanish and philosophy and plans for a career in international law.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of having my own computer, and how much easier it made my life,” Butler said. “It’s so essential – for assignments, for communicating, for making presentations in class. And this may sound like a minor thing, but a laptop helps you fit in on campus with all the other kids from families who can afford them.”
The Center for Land-Based Learning is asking Book of Dreams readers to help fund a “Laptop and Luggage Scholarships” initiative to provide college essentials for 10 of its most deserving students. In addition to refurbished laptops and suitcases, the scholarships would pay for other dorm essentials many low-income students lack.
Such support would be a godsend for Ocon. The oldest of three kids, she works two jobs – at a fast-food restaurant and a shoe store – while juggling classes and her role as an officer in Florin High’s Future Farmers of America program.
“I’m trying to save money, but I don’t know how I’d save enough to afford a computer on top of everything else,” she said. “If it could happen through this program, I would appreciate it very much.”
Needed: Funds for laptops and luggage for college-bound students.
2014 BOOK OF DREAMS
For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.
All donations are tax deductible and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs. The Book of Dreams fund is administered by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. If you donate online, the Region Foundation will appear on your statement.
If you have additional questions, please call the Book of Dreams line at (916) 556-5667. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 16.
* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulﬁlled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulﬁll wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies beneﬁting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has veriﬁed the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona ﬁde cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.