Henrico non-profit connects veterans to technology, students to hands-on S.T.E.M experience

For some people, the few hundred dollars to buy electronic devices — like a laptop — could mean the difference between putting food on the table or paying rent.

American veterans are among those people.

But an organization in Central Virginia is working to bridge that gap.

“I think that we, America oughtta step up and say, ‘hey a free computer or training is the least we can do for you,'” said Executive Director of Tech4Troops, Mark Casper.

Tech4Troops is a Henrico County non-profit that refurbishes laptops and helps get them to veterans — for free. Casper recognizes a need to help former service members get settled into careers after deployment.

“You can’t write a resume on a cell phone and a lot of vets have cell phones but they don’t have access to a computer,” said Casper.

Tech4Troops accepts donations and recycled electronics to make all of this possible for veterans when they return home.

“When they get out everybody thinks they have all these opportunities to get a really good job,” said Casper. “And they’re just like everybody else. They have the opportunity but if they don’t have the skill sets, they cant get that job.”

Tech4Troops also partners with local students, businesses, and organizations for volunteer opportunities. Over the past year, some students from Chesterfield Technical Center decided to step in and help the Tech4Troops mission.

“[They] came up with the idea that we could actually merge a gaming tournament type thing that we do with our cyber security,” said Chesterfield Technical Center Cisco IT Instructor, Scott Steinruck. “They developed Hack4Troops and they decided to use it as a fundraiser.”

The students pulled off the event in November after devoting countless hours to it’s success.

“We’ve been volunteering with Tech4Troops for a year now,” said Chesterfield Technical Center student, Benjamin Allen. “I would say we put about 80 hours each into this event.”

Allen was one of three students who spearheaded the hack-a-thon. He and his classmates aspire to careers in the S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering, and math) field — namely information technology and cyber security.

The Hack4Troops allowed these students to give back to veterans all while getting valuable hands on experience in the field they are passionate about. The event was a huge success, raising more than $14,000.

Both Casper and Steinruck served in the U.S. Marine Corps, so helping fellow veterans is a personal endeavor for them.

“They truly stepped up they made a difference,” said Casper.

“We were able to bring our community service together with it and helping veterans,” said Steinruck.

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