Alex Veldran, a junior at Montclair High School, was looking for a way to increase his volunteer hours for his National Honors Society application and help other students without risking COVID exposure to himself or his family.

In 2019, he had interned in the Laptop Upcycle lab and, along with other high school students, learned how to repair computers, install software safely and securely wipe data from hard drives.

Laptop Upcycle is a Montclair-based non-profit that collects, refreshes, and distributes used laptops to students in need. It's goal is to eliminate technology as part of the achievement gap.

“A friend of mine, Max Waitz, volunteers all the time at the Laptop Upcycle lab and asked me to go with him. I have a few friends who don’t have a computer or had a school laptop so I thought this was an important mission to focus on. I’ve also done some tutoring and realized that some people just don’t have the equipment to do their homework," Veldran said. "And now, with the pandemic, I really understand how important it is to have a workable laptop that is yours to use. It’s a huge privilege.”

Knowing that a lot of people are cleaning out closets and home offices, he thought that this might be a way to get laptop donations.

Veldran created a flyer for his neighbors, and emailed and texted family, friends and his teammates on the  Montclair High School baseball team.

He put his muscles to work. After the most recent snowfall, Veldran was able to add $100 to his collection of three laptops and three keyboards. He also collected power adapters, headphones and a pair of laptop backpacks.

“When I asked for laptops, some people were concerned about how safe it was because of their data. Because of my experience in the lab, I could assure them that it was safe," he said. "Most people I talked to thought this was a great idea, especially when our whole lives are online.”

Mike Brown, a Laptop Upcycle board member and the the lead for equipment refurbishment, was thrilled with Alex's initiative but not surprised.

“The students that volunteer in the Lab are highly motivated. They understand our mission of getting laptops into the hands of kids who just can’t afford it," Brown said. "After they work on computers for a while, they also see the value in upcycling technology into a workable school computer. They know the need exists in their school, and they learn how satisfying it is to work with your hands and build something that has such tremendous life-changing value. We’re thrilled with Alex’s accomplishment and donations.”

While his National Honors Society application has been submitted, Veldran plans to continue collecting laptops and peripherals for the rest of the year.

— Information submitted to Montclair Local