Amrita Lakhanpal, a sophomore at Altamont School, poses with Maime Lewis, director of the after school program at EPIC Elementary School, and fifth graders at EPIC. Amrita volunteers to teach computer skills in EPIC Elementary School's after school program. During her time at the school, she noticed the school needed upgrades in technology. Concerned with how this would impact students, she took it upon herself to launch a letter-writing campaign to ask Birmingham-area businesses to donate funding. She was successful, raising $12,000 to buy 60 laptops. (Photo by Chanda Temple)
Posted March 21, 2017
By Chanda Temple
Amrita Lakhanpal, a sophomore at Altamont School, recently raised $12,000 to buy 60 new Chromebooks for EPIC Elementary School. She made the formal announcement about the fundraiser during a press conference at the school on Monday, March 20.
"I believe this laptop initiative will provide the students with the technology and opportunity to prepare them for challenges of the 21st century learner,'' Amrita said. (Go here to see a video from the press conference.)
For the past three years, Amrita has volunteered at the school, teaching summer computer classes. She also teaches an afterschool computer class at EPIC. While teaching students about coding, she noticed that some of the school’s technology was outdated.
Interested in increasing the school’s technology options for every day learning, Amrita planned to use her own money to buy a laptop and donate it to the school. She then thought of how she could get more computers. In February 2017, she challenged area businesses to be like her and make a donation to buy laptops.
She named her initiative "Screens for Schools,'' and she sent emails to various companies. If she did not hear back from them, she sent additional emails. Every day when she got home from school, she would work on emails for 15 minutes. Then, at night, before she went to bed, she would work on more emails.
Her goal was to receive $1,000 from each of the 12 companies she contacted. Some gave more than her request. Others gave less. But in the end, the donations helped her reach her goal of $12,000.
“I was extremely amazed at the positive response I received from the local companies and members of the community, Amrita said. “To all of those who donated, I cannot thank you enough for supporting not only me, but also the future of our lovely city.’’
Now that she has raised $12,000, she’d like to raise an additional $4,000 to buy 30 more Chromebooks. Anyone interested in making a donation, may drop it off at EPIC. Donations are tax deductible. If writing a check, donors may make them out to EPIC and write “Screens for Schools’’ in the memo section. The school's address is 1000 - 10th Ave. South.
Currently, EPIC students visit the school’s computer lab to do research, testing and more. The school also has two sets of iPads, which are five years old. Teachers must check out the iPads to use them in the classroom.
EPIC Elementary Dr. Eleanor Stokes said the addition of 60 new Chromebooks will broaden the school’s technology base, allowing students to use the Chromebooks for testing, small group instruction, reading comprehension strategies and Google classroom. Everyone at EPIC will be able to use them.
EPIC Principal Dr. Eleanor Stokes, left, with Amrita and BCS Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Contri. (Photo by Chanda Temple)
“I think that this is absolutely wonderful. She is indeed a leader among her peers,’’ said Dr. Stokes. “I hope we can take this and run with it and give back to the community ourselves.’’
Said Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Contri: "I'm just so proud of what you've accomplished, Amrita.''
"Let's take Amrita's pattern and let's duplicate it throughout the Birmingham school system because there is a need.''
But Amrita’s goodwill did not stop at seeking donations. She said she also plans to start a coding club for fifth graders at the school.
“I also realized this week weekend that March is National Women’s History Month, so I am thrilled that I was able to accomplish my goal during this month! I hope other girls like me will be motivated to do the same,’’ she said. “If I can do it so can you!’’
Amrita Lakhanpal with Katherine Berdy, director of the Miree Leadership Center at Altamont, which is where Amrita was inspired to give back to help students at EPIC. Altamont students in the program have partnered with EPIC for the last four years as part of a community service program. For the last two years, Amrita's brother, Arjun, volunteered to build a garden at the school. He also did a healthy living program at EPIC. "This family is amazing. A lot of families are,'' Berdy said. "They are examples of what all of us can do.'' (Photo by Chanda Temple)
Amrita Lakhanpal with her parents, Shaily and Geeta Lakhanpal. (Photo by Chanda Temple)