Five Hayden seniors were given refurbished laptops as part of a program to provide laptops to graduating seniors who plan to continue their education in college next year. Among the seniors who took advantage of the new program this year were Ryan Mahaffie, center, and, from left, Wayne Dubs, Dylan Sather, Koleman Williams and  Samantha Huffar.

Photo by John F. Russell

Five Hayden seniors were given refurbished laptops as part of a program to provide laptops to graduating seniors who plan to continue their education in college next year. Among the seniors who took advantage of the new program this year were Ryan Mahaffie, center, and, from left, Wayne Dubs, Dylan Sather, Koleman Williams and Samantha Huffar.

Hayden High School students get free laptops

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Hayden High School senior Ryan Mahaffie works on a refurbished laptop that he got as part of a new program at Hayden High School, which rewards some graduating seniors who plan on attending college with a laptop. Mahaffie was one of five seniors to get a laptop in the program’s first year.

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A group of Hayden seniors talk about the artwork of classmate Ryan Mahaffie during class Monday morning. The group, seated clockwise from left, includes Wayne Dubs, Mahaffie, Samantha Huffar, teacher Greg Pieraccini, Dylan Sather and Koleman Williams.

— Hayden High School senior Ryan Mahaffie wants to design video games after he graduates from college.

He’ll attend Rocky Moun­tain College of Art & Design in Denver. To get a jump-start on accomplishing his goal, Mahaffie’s high school rece­ntly gave him a valuable tool: a free laptop.

Mahaffie said the tablet PC laptop, which operates like a Microsoft Windows-based iPad, would make doing his work easier “in every way imaginable.”

“Just in general, it’s everything I needed and ever wanted,” he said.

In addition to Mahaffie, four other seniors were given laptops as part of a program the high school created this year, business and computer teacher Greg Pieraccini said. He said Jim Earley, the Hayden School District’s technology director, approached him with the idea of refurbishing used laptops that were donated to the district and then providing them to seniors who are attending college next year.

“The purpose of the program was to ensure every graduating senior from Hayden that needs a laptop for college has one, and at the same time save the district the expense of having outdated equipment professionally recycled,” Earley said in an e-mail.

Earley said the district received a donation of surplus computer equipment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Fort Collins. He said the donation included many used IBM ThinkPad laptops that he was able to piece together to make several working machines. Pieraccini said Earley also refurbished some Dell Latitude laptops for the students.

Every student who applied for the program got a laptop, Pieraccini said. He said there is one left for any interested senior, but applicants — like the seniors who already were chosen — are required to submit an essay about why having a laptop for college would be valuable and why it’s difficult for them to afford one.

The students learned late last week that they were chosen to receive free laptops.

“I was stoked,” senior Wayne Dubs said. “It’s something important I can use in college and after college, too. It will help me a lot in life.”

Dubs added that the laptop also will make it easier to keep in touch with his family while he’s attending North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D.

The students said they didn’t care that their comp­­­­uters are used.

“Just because they’re not new doesn’t mean they won’t work in college,” said Dylan Sather, who also will attend North Dakota State College of Science.

When asked whether the students could have afforded to buy their own laptops, they shook their heads. Senior Samantha Huffar said she couldn’t believe she was chosen.

“It was kind of a relief,” said Huffar, who will attend Colorado Northwestern Com­munity College. “It was a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Senior Koleman Williams, who will attend Western State College in Gunnison, also was chosen to receive a free laptop.

Pieraccini said he and Earley wanted to provide laptops to students who took the initiative to write an essay explaining whey they need them. He said they didn’t want to just give the laptops away.

“It made a lot of sense to give them to these deserving students, students who need them in college,” Pieraccini said. “It’s something we’d like to be able to do every year, to make it an annual tradition.”

Earley said he thinks college students need computers with Internet access to do the work that is required for their classes.

“Starting college without a laptop automatically handicaps a student and puts them at an educational disadvantage right from the start,” he said. “I sincerely want every Hayden graduate to have every advantage the district can possibly give them from a technology standpoint, not only while they’re here, but after they graduate, as well.”

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