An equal chance for academic success.
By Karleigh Creighton
Photography by Brett Mountain
Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus says, “Young people are capable of doing much more today than ever in the history of mankind.”
Whether they are more capable, more willing or raised to do so, there is no question that teens today are out in the community, making a philanthropic impact.
Carolyn Cohn, a Berkley High School junior, saw a need to help her classmates as an eighth-grade student and hasn’t let it go since.
“This school district is very diverse. There are a lot of people who are well-off and a lot of people who are struggling. I saw a bunch of people struggling to make ends meet, and I felt like I needed to do something about that,” Cohn said.
Cohn started Teen Screens in 2012. She solicits used laptops and then has them refurbished to give to students in need.
What started with one laptop has turned into 15 laptops with four on the way.
“After I gave the first laptop out, I felt like there was more to do,” she said.
Technology is more prevalent than ever and without access to it, today’s students are at an academic disadvantage.
“I do mostly all my homework on my computer, and I saw there were a lot of people who don’t have the ability to do that,” Cohn said. “I felt like the best way to give everyone the same chance at succeeding in education was to provide equal opportunity to have technology to complete work.”
Cohn relies on the help of Steve Krasnick of Huntington Technology to get the donated laptops ready for students.
Krasnick wipes the hard drives and then reinstalls the Windows or Mac operating system software on the machines. He also runs a diagnostic test on each machine to make sure there are no apparent problems.
“Her efforts inspired me,” Krasnick said. “She came up with a great way to help kids who don’t have access to technology, and I knew I had to help her. Hopefully, her efforts will help fill the tech gap that occurs in many families.”
Growing up, Cohn learned what life is like for those less fortunate than she.
“My family has always gone out to Detroit and gotten out of this area to see what life is like for other people and to see what other parts of Michigan are like. It helped me be more aware and open at a young age,” Cohn said.
In addition to Teen Screens, Cohn makes an impact in the community by serving as the vice president of the Berkley High School Community Service Club, and she volunteers at the Detroit Achievement Academy, a free charter school with free meals for the students, on her half-days and days off.
Cohn’s high school counselor Robin Weiss is thrilled about the positive work she is doing for her classmates.
“I’ve known Carolyn since she was in sixth grade, and I could not be more proud of her and the work she has done. She has taken a small idea based on the idea she had in middle school and she hasn’t let it go. She’s been persistent,” Weiss said. “I feel like our world always needs more kindness and more people to help. I think it’s really important when young people notice that, too. It’s not just a job for the adults. Sometimes kids are even better at it.”
Weiss says she “stalks” Cohn for computers because there is such a large group of students who do not have access to technology in their homes.
Cohn’s vision for Teen Screens is expansion. She would like to see another, younger student take over the program after she graduates to continue the legacy. Generating a greater awareness and collecting financial donations in addition to soliciting actual laptops are goals of Cohn’s as well.
“I would like to get more financial donations to buy newer technology, so I won’t have to worry if the used laptops will work,” Cohn said. “I’ve received more than 30 donations, but only half of them have worked. Getting monetary donations would make a huge difference in the number of computers I’d be able to give out to students.” NS
Those interested in donating to Teen Screens can contact Carolyn Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.