Help the Community, Help Yourself How ECPI students find value in volunteer efforts

Lynn “Erla” Beegle teaches students at ECPI how to work a computer. She then encourages them to apply those skills through volunteering. One of the places ECPI students get to apply their skills is The Kramden Institute, which is a non-profit located in Durham, North Carolina providing free PCs and training to disadvantaged children. Volunteers reassemble donated computers and install software to provide free systems to the area’s youth.

ECPI and Kramden formed the partnership in 2006. ECPI has provided a steady stream of volunteers and has hosted “Geek-a-Thons” which are all day events to restore the computers. In turn, Kramden has provided several externships and internships for ECPI students.

Erla points out three benefits students receive through volunteer efforts:

  • Students work alongside people who are currently in the field, perhaps a hiring manger. The experience provides “casual interaction” for successful networking
  • The hands-on experience of an externship, internship or volunteering to work on the computers
  • Students gain references to list on their resume for real world work as well as community involvement

In addition to The Kramden Institute, ECPI Raleigh formed a partnership with the Purple Elephant in 2008. The Purple Elephant sells discounted, refurbished computers. Kevin Doggette, who is soon to be a three-time graduate of ECPI, credits his current job to his volunteer efforts with the Purple Elephant. Kevin received his computer science certificate from ECPI in 1988, his associate’s in 2010 and in June he will complete his Bachelor’s in Network Security.

Last year he completed his externship with the Purple Elephant in August and continued to volunteer while he searched for full-time employment. Bernadette Smith, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Wake County, visited the Purple Elephant in search of computers for a GED course the county was establishing. She met Kevin and asked him to interview for a position to set up the network. It was during his second interview in October that he was offered the job. Kevin is enjoying his work with the county. He is using the skills he acquired from his Purple Elephant internship and from ECPI.

Lynn “Erla” Beegle teaches computer hardware and network security courses at ECPI in Raleigh, North Carolina. Kevin Doggette is an ECPI student who will graduate in June 2011.