Virginia STAR Program Brings Out the Best

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PWLIVING December 2015 IMG_2449 (1)As coordinator of the STAR program for the state of Virginia, Chuck Drake is either on the road delivering computers and hardware to various schools or working at Forest Park High School, the model site for the STAR program. Virginia STAR stands for the Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment program. This program allows the state’s high school students to repair and refurbish surplus hardware from local government agencies, private companies and the federal government. These refurbished computers are then donated to local families, non-profit organizations.

“The program was started by Aneesh Chopra, former chief technology officer for the Commonwealth of  Virginia who later became the nation’s first chief technology officer under Barack Obama,” said Drake. Having worked with Mr. Chopra previously, when the idea of saving money  through refurbishing computers came about, Drake and Forest Park High School were among the many  schools to submit a request for proposal to the U.S. Department of Education. Today, the STAR  program, is administered through the Prince William County public schools and its SPARK Education Foundation.

Started in 2008, the program is a collaborative effort of the Secretaries of Education and  Technology and the Departments of Education and General Services to introduce Virginia’s students to the field of IT repair.

The ultimate goal of the program is to create a sustainable educational program that takes surplus hardware from state agencies or private companies to offer students IT. But, it has become much more than that for many schools. “It is a wonderful program where students get to use what they are learning in technology to help students without the advantage of having technology at home. Many times in education we assume students have a computer to use. We’ve refurbished and donated over 500 computers to students and larger groups over the course of the program,” said Stephanie Evers, Battlefield High School coordinator, Virginia STAR computer refurbishment program.

The program is sometimes offered as part of the curriculum in schools while in other cases the  schools offer it as an after- school program. This is the case at Battlefield High School. The BEST club, which stands for Bobcats Evaluating and Servicing Technology, is run completely by  volunteers. “The students do not receive any credit or grades. They do it because it’s rewarding,” Evers said.

Overseen by the school’s network administrator Carl Binsted, students do things like clean out the computers, work on imaging tasks, testing modules, kits of cables and other tasks. Some work individually, others work together.
It depends on the task. And when it comes to the give-away event, the students are completely in charge. “The students have to do all the refurbishment as well as conducting the give back/donation event,” said Drake. Officially known as the ‘Bridging the Gap (BTG)’ event, each school has to hold at least one.

“The VA STAR program has had an extraordinary impact on our students and the families who receive the refurbished computers,” said Lynn Morris, VA STAR coordinator at Deep Run High School in Richmond, Va. “Deep Run CIT students love to participate year after year, even when it is not part of a class assignment. They love working with the receiving families to train them on the use of the computer and are excited to share their passion for technology with others.”

Funding for the program comes from the government while companies such as MICRON (Manassas) and  Lockheed Martin (Manassas), Microsoft and Best Buy, and organizations such as NASA and local and  state governments donate the computers.

The program has grown significantly in 2015, with funding received to reach 37 school districts and  60 different sites across the Commonwealth. As the success of the program continues, the benefits  to families and both for-profit and non-profit organizations are tremendous. Schools interested in offering the VA STAR program to their students should refer to

A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman ( is a freelance writer for online and print publications.


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