Matthew Henick is doing more than just finishing his Eagle Scout project three years ahead of deadline.
The 14-year-old Troop 12 Western Springs scout also managed to get Western Springs District 101 to donate several dozen computers, which he and volunteers have refurbished and reimaged into idea systems for members of the Off the Street Club, a safe haven for kids and teens in the street violence-ridden West Garfield Park.
The total number of computers Henick is donating—91 iBook G4 laptops and 20 eMac desktops, ’02-’04-generation—come from a number of sources, but mostly D101, who are replacing a large portion of their laptop fleet with new machines, and a company called Movéo. With lucky timing and a productive meeting with Superintendent Brian Barnhart last December, Henick had managed to far exceed his original donation goals.
The Off the Street Club and Western Springs are partnered through a Friendship Circle organization, where Henick first learned about the Club and began hanging out with some of its members.
“I’ve always been interested in computers my whole life; I was at the club one day and I was just talking to the guy about possible Eagle Scout Projects,” Henick said of the genesis of his idea. “They needed it, it was something I knew I could do, and they’re really appreciative of it.”
Henick’s Eagle project took six months of planning, and then another one month to execute.
Off the Street will receive 60 of the refurbished laptops, with another 10 for spare parts, as well as the desktop computers. The last 21 laptops have been a bit more difficult to find a home for.
Without Henick’s project, all the computers may well have ended up in the trash, said D101 District Technology Coordinator Matt Ryan. The connection with OTC simply wouldn’t have happened. According to Ryan, it’s surprisingly difficult to donate used computers to charities or other schools.
“Generally, nobody wants them,” Ryan said. “So I just end up recycling them, which is sad. An old computer is better than no computer.
“[But these] are going to good use,” he added happily. “They’re not going to wind up in a landfill, they’re not going to end up shredded.”
In late July, Henick, along with friends and fellow Scouts, met in the McClure Junior High library to finalize the new laptops: “imaging” them over the D101 server to make each computer identical to a model version. The models are also outfitted with brand-new OTC asset tags. (All the software, as well as usage of the server, was donated by the District.)
Even Henick’s mom, Tracy, was on hand to help out—which she admitted was a privilege.
“Generally he doesn’t let me touch computers, so even the fact that he’s letting me work with him is kind of nice,” Tracy Henick laughed.
“I think this is fantastic. Computers are his strength. He does computer repair for people as a business, and so it dovetails perfectly with what he likes to do. And I’m pretty impressed: he’s 14. He’s pulling this off, and it’s great.”
At 14, Henick has already served as Troop 12’s (out of First Congregational Church) webmaster for three years, revamping the troop’s website. He also works as a den chief with Cub Scouts, and says he plans to continue studying towards a career path in technology.
“I’m not sure what [exactly,] he said, “but that’s something I’m definitely looking into in high school.”