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UpTop Denton bridges ‘digital divide’ for high school seniors

UpTop Denton bridges ‘digital divide’ for high school seniors

UpTop Denton bridges ‘digital divide’ for high school seniors
October 21
16:53 2017

For the kids who do homework by phone light, skip class to study in the computer lab, work late and study even later, UpTop Denton wants to help.

UpTop, a fundraiser started by Denton resident Chris Briggs, provides laptops for disadvantaged seniors at Denton Ryan High School. In an increasingly tech-heavy classroom method, its goal is to close the digital gap between students who have access to computers and those who don’t.

“[It’s all about] knowing how important access to a device beyond a phone is,” Briggs said. “[It’s] not [just to] be successful in school, but just being able to get by.”

What started as a personal mission for Briggs grew to become a local philanthropic cause.

“The red tape to get started was depressing, so I personally thought I could get enough resources to get one or two laptops to a couple of kids,” Briggs said.

This is partly why UpTop is not formally classified as a nonprofit. Briggs considers it more of a fundraising effort within the community, initially sparked through word-of-mouth and social media. Briggs describes it as a “pass-the-hat, guerrilla-style, do-gooding” funded from the hands of fellow Dentonites.

“I started mentioning it to some acquaintances in town and they said, ‘Well, I’ll give you $50,’ and another one said, ‘I’ll give you $10,’” Briggs said.

Knowing he had some support, Briggs began contacting organizations and businesses to partner with.

Diane Owen, a Talent Search counselor at Denton Ryan, happened to be the only one who picked up.

Talent Search is a federally-funded program that provides assistance to first-generation or disadvantaged students.

“I was more than thrilled that someone wanted to adopt our program to give these students an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Owen said.

Students are chosen or recruited by teachers in the fall. At Denton Ryan, Owen said there are 210 students currently enrolled in the program.

“We target underrepresented students to help them get into college as low-income and first-generation,” Owen said. “They need to have at least a 3.0 GPA and show college readiness.”

With this in mind, Briggs started a GoFundMe last year with a goal of buying two laptops, but he eventually reached $1,200. In that year, UpTop Denton was able to supply laptops to six seniors at RHS.

“All [the students] are going to know is that there are people in the town that want to see them do good and recognize that they’re taking a big step coming out to college,” Briggs said.

Estrella Chacon, who is one of the recipients, said the laptop has been a crucial tool in a college setting.

“I’ve had to use my laptop every single night in college whether it be for projects or homework,” Chacon said. “Everything now in college is based off electronics — unlike high school that has paper homework that you turn in.”

Chacon is now a freshman at the University of Texas at Arlington pursuing a degree in nursing. She said that UpTop and the Talent Search program were instrumental in giving her a push toward more academic pursuits.

“That was the first scholarship I’ve ever received, so it really gave me motivation to apply for other scholarships,” Chacon said.

This year, Briggs said he wants to reach higher. UpTop has set up the 2017-2018 GoFundMe with a goal of buying 20 laptops. So far, they have raised $545 since September.

“I like to tell people it feels good to give in a small way,” Briggs said. “To be a part of something positive.”

Every day, the GoFundMe is funded by families, friends and complete strangers. Recipients of the laptops may not know the donors personally, but Briggs said it is a testament to how supportive the Denton community can be.

“[The students know] that people in their own town have their back,” Briggs said. “Not even in a small way, but in a really big way.”

Although UpTop is in its early stages, those involved hope to continue growing as the classroom turns toward a more digital space.

“If that could continue and we could help every senior who didn’t have access to a laptop get one, that would be amazing,” Owen said.

Featured Image: UpTop Denton founder Chris Briggs donates laptops to Ryan High School seniors in a spring award ceremony. Courtesy | Uptop Denton

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Amy Roh

Amy Roh

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1 Comment

  1. UpTop
    UpTop October 23, 21:25

    For anyone looking to pitch in and contribute to UpTop, here is the link to be GoFundMe:

    Reply to this comment

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