Last spring, Fenwick student Thomas "Tommy" Bartecki '18 was brainstorming with some friends, discussing ideas for their junior-year service project. “We wanted to do something special … that would both last for a long time and help many,” explains Bartecki, who is now a senior. “Being a math guy, I thought everyone has at least one calculator, and most students will not require them after high school. Collecting calculators and donating them to a school that could reuse them seemed like a great fit. This was the beginning of Calcs for Kids.”
More than 400 old calculators were collected in the Atrium at Fenwick during the final two weeks of the 2016-17 school year this past May. All models and types were accepted, graphing or otherwise. (Approximately one-fourth of the models have graphing capabilities.)
The calculators have been donated to students at four-year-old Chicago Collegiate Charter School at 11816 S. Indiana Ave. in Chicago’s Roseland/Pullman neighborhood. Historically, only 2% of students in this area graduate from a four-year college within six years of high school graduation, according to the school’s website (www.chicagocollegiate.org). “Many of these students cannot afford their own calculators, and we wanted to help,” Bartecki says. “Chicago Collegiate serves students from 4th grade through high school, so even the most basic calculators can greatly benefit the school.”
Suffice it to say that young Bartecki really didn’t know what he was getting into. “I didn’t realize how much start-up time it would require,” he admits. “I had to get approval from Fenwick, write up our mission statement to show that this is a legitimate cause, and write memos to many teachers who I thought could help. After that came the time-consuming job to collect, clean, fix, sort and distribute the calculators.
“My two friends and partners in the project were from Hinsdale Central and South high schools, and they did similar plans at their schools,” Bartecki continues. “Getting approval from Fenwick was not that difficult.” He enlisted the help of Laura Docherty, one of Fenwick’s College Counselors.
“Mrs. Docherty reviewed my ideas, made sure everything was approved by the administration and gave me some great suggestions,” he notes. “But in order to make this a successful project I knew I would have to get the support of the teachers, so I wrote to as many teachers as I could, requesting their help. Their support was outstanding, especially Brother Trout [Theology Chair], Ms. Christophell [Science Teacher] and Mr. Finnell [Mathematics Chair].”
Next, Bartecki needed to select who would receive the calculators. “One of my parent’s friend’s daughters, Beth [Carrera] Napleton, opened the Chicago Collegiate Charter School … on the South Side,” he explains. “I spoke to Mrs. Napleton, and it seemed to be the perfect place to receive the calculators. All that was left was to collect as many calculators as possible.”
So he set up drop-off stations, put out a few posters and followed up with the teachers, who “were really great and so helpful,” he praises. “I could not believe the response we received from the Fenwick community.” Most importantly, Bartecki accomplished his goal of helping many people.
After cleaning, sorting and making sure each calculator worked, Bartecki delivered them to Chicago Collegiate on June 20th. "The calculators are an incredibly helpful resource to our students -- an academic tool that all students need but not all can necessarily afford," says school founder Mrs. Carrera Napleton. "Calcs for Kids helps bridge that gap in a very impactful way!"
Bartecki reports: “They were very happy and surprised at how many calculators we collected. After touring the school, I knew that we had selected the right place ... after seeing the smiles on the students' and teachers' faces, there is no doubt it was worth all the effort."
Now that the Calcs for Kids business plan is established, Bartecki wants to pass the proverbial torch and make it an annual event. “I am in the process of selecting a junior to ‘take over,’” he says. “Each year the person in charge would select a junior to run the event with his or her help. The junior selected would then select their partners from at least one other school and would also get to choose who would receive the calculators.”