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Laptop loan programWhen the COVID-19 epidemic forced The City University of New York to rapidly switch to distance learning, Bronx Community College faced an immediate challenge.

“A lot of our students don’t have access to their own computers,” observes BCC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo. ” We knew we needed to provide not just the pedagogical tools to our student body population but the physical devices as well, so they could continue their academics during this transition.”

“We have been able to fund nearly half a million dollars for laptops and tablets,” says Dr. Eddy Bayardelle, President of the BCC Foundation. CUNY contributed some of the computers, while $250,000 in funding came from New York State Assemblymembers Victor M. Pichardo and Nathalia Fernandez.

Getting that hardware to those who needed it was the next step.

“We had two different ways of delivering the computers,” says the Provost. “Some we mailed. I was physically labelling the boxes, waiting for the UPS truck and sending the computers to the students’ homes.

“We also handed out the computers at a drive-through on campus at the Hall of Fame Terrace entrance. We gave each student a specific time so we wouldn’t have an influx. We all wore gloves and masks and kept our social distancing.”

Joining in the physical distribution of the computers were Kay W. Ellis, Vice President of Administration and Finance, who recalls “Many of the students did take the time to send us an email and thank us and say that it helped them in their studies.”

Also handing out the hardware was Dr. Irene R. Delgado, Vice President for Student Success.

“I want to acknowledge all the offices at BCC that came together under a lot of pressure in a short amount of time to make this a reality,” says Dr. Delgado. “From Receiving to Purchasing to the Campus Service Center and Public Safety.”

The computers are also a way of promoting continuity in the BCC students’ education. “Every time we give a computer to a student, we encourage them to register for the next semester,” observes Dr. Rápalo. “The idea is to give our students flexibility so they can continue their studies in the summer with distance learning.” Since the laptops are loaners, students who don’t come back to BCC have to return them.

Computers have also been loaned to faculty members, along with training for those with less experience in distance learning. “We are still holding workshops to maintain our same high standards when it comes to the curriculum. We not only want to put the classes on line, but to make sure that the students are actually learning the material.

“I want to thank the chairs, adjuncts, and faculty body for their efforts to teach under this new modality,” Dr. Rápalo enthuses. “Without their support this effort would not have been possible. When I arrived as provost three months ago, we were only offering 10 percent of our classes online. We moved 100 percent of our classes to distance learning in five days.”

But amid such radical change in BCC life, one thing has not changed at all.

“I always believe in the mission of the College, where students from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds come to study. Now more than ever, they need us.”

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