A teenager who just graduated from Palmetto High recruited his friends at the school to start a group to send computers to needy students in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It was a couple of pieces of computer equipment destined for the garbage bin that encouraged a recent Palmetto High School graduate to give a helping hand.

Brett Boren’s mother was about to throw away two computer monitors that were no longer needed in their home.

But he persuaded her not to.

“I didn’t want her to get rid of them because I thought there would be an organization that would send them over to somewhere where they would actually use them, rather than just throw them away,” Boren said. “So I did some research, and I couldn’t find anything.

“So I figured I’d start one.”

He founded Connect the Americas last December with the intention to send used computers to schools in the Caribbean and South America.

Boren knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he brought in two friends, also from Palmetto High, to help.

Brian Tan, now a senior, joined the cause to help Boren gather computer equipment.

“Brett knew that I was interested in making changes and helping people,” Tan said. “It’s just something I’ve always been interested in, which is why I want to go to med school.”

Boren also recruited senior Francis Tam who helps the group repair and test the donated machines.

“I’m basically the technician,” said Tam.

So far, they have about nine desktop computers ready to ship, complete with keyboards, mice and monitors. They’re equipped with Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office. Speakers, printers or scanners also may be included with some of the packages.

Boren donated a couple of the computers himself. The others were given by a member of Boren’s Boy Scout troop, who did not want to be named.

Connect the Americas decided to give their first computers to Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston, Jamaica, and Panama Christian Academy in Panama City, Panama.

But the group is waiting to collect a few more computers before making their first shipment.

At one point the volunteers thought they would receive about 40 computers, thanks to Miami-Dade Public School’s Information Technology Services. But a misunderstanding left them with 40 used monitors — without the CPU or the computers’ central processing units.

“Their idea of computers was just the monitors and the keyboards, but not the actual CPU,” said Tan.

“We were going to send 20 to Jamaica and 20 to Panama, but since we didn’t get those computers, we held back.”

The confusion probably occurred when ITS allowed the group to test the monitors on ITS computers, according to Davion Crumel, the training and student internship manager at ITS.

Crumel said the agreement from the outset was only for the monitors, and that they are still available for the group.

He added that ITS is also helping the group with storage in their Doral warehouse.

“Whatever equipment they bring to us, we’re willing to store it for them,” he said.

For now, the group is focused on getting more donations to get the number of computers back to 40.

They’re asking for their families and private companies to help out.

They want to at least collect a dozen computers.

Meanwhile, Connect the Americas’ founder — Boren — recently began his freshman year at the University of Oregon.

He left Tan in charge.

“I think it’s a big responsibility that everything is put on me, but I’m going to make sure that everything gets done and expand the project as much as we can,” Tan said.

“Right now we’re working on expanding to other schools.”

Boren hopes the group continues expanding while he pursues degrees in international business and sociology. He said he’d like to see the group send some computers to Bolivia.

“There’s enormous poverty there. I think that’s where the technology can be used to its fullest extent,” he said.

For more information on Connect the Americas, visit ConnectTheAmericas.org or e-mail ConnectTheAmericas@ gmail.com.

[via MiamiHerald.com] by Jonathan Davila