2005 Citizen Services

Coral Childs and the GSA Computers for Learning Team

Coordinated government-wide effort to distribute more than 118,000 computers and related equipment to needy schools.

The way that Coral Childs envisions technology in the classroom isn’t much different than anyone else: ideally, every student in America would have access to computers in their schools. Unfortunately, thousands of schools are in need of computers and related equipment like monitors, keyboards, and modems to make this vision a reality. Through the Computers for Learning program (CFL), Ms. Childs and her team are turning her vision into a reality, matching these “needy” schools with a donor, either a government agency or a member of the private sector, and giving young students access to the tools they need to prepare themselves to compete in the new economy.

The CFL program helped bring to life an executive order that encouraged government agencies to donate computers and equipment to schools.

The General Services Administration took ownership of CFL late in 1999. It was at this time that Childs began her work with the program. Under her leadership over the next five years, CFL helped transfer more than 118,000 computers and related equipment to over 12,000 needy schools. Despite a limited budget and small staff, several people credit the CFL program with actively narrowing the “digital divide,” a disparity that exists between wealthy and needy school districts.

Childs played a significant role in both the marketing and outreach for the program, but her active involvement with the CFL’s website (www.computers.fed.gov) cannot go unmentioned. Due to her remarkable compassion for the public and her dedication to the cause, the website is a place where agencies can instantly access pertinent information about needy schools. In the same respect, schools and educational nonprofit organizations if eligible can register on the website to receive this equipment. Arrangements to donate the technology can also be made through the website.

A key innovation to the program that Childs brought to CFL was to expand potential donors from government agencies to donors from the private sector including corporations and individuals alike. The demand from needy schools and organizations significantly outweighs the supply of used federal computers, and the private sector helps to increase the supply of available computer equipment.

Childs’ achievements with CFL helped propel her to a new position within the General Services Administration. She no longer plays a daily role in the Computers for Learning program, but its success would not exist without the key part she played in the program’s initiatives and implementation.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” The Computers for Learning program is progress in education, and Childs is a fundamental resource—a federal employee—who, day in and day out, works to improve the lives of others.