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Chicago actor uses computer hobby to help students prepare for online learning amid pandemic

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CHICAGO When the COVID-19 pandemic forced David Roth out of work last March, he spent his days fiddling with computers.

But as the school year began to kick in, this Chicagoan decided to use his hobby to help by preparing dozens of students for online learning.

David Roth is one of the Very Own Chicagos.

If you take a look at his dining room table, you might mistake Roth for a computer repairman.

I’ve always been a handyman, taking things apart and putting them back together, he says.

But as fascinated as Roth is with the inner workings of a computer, this Northsider is also an accomplished player, and like so many others, he found himself out of work due to the pandemic.

Everything stopped, he said. As a freelance, as a stage worker in that sense, as an actor, nobody could do anything.

Roth said he was itchy with all of his free time until he read an article about the shortage of distance learning computers and thought he could help.

I wipe them down, open them, clean them, and give them more memory to make them work better, he says.

With a few old laptops lying around, he got to work asking his friends and family to send in some old computers. He then installed the latest operating systems to facilitate student access.

Everything is the last, so they can run all the new apps they can do, their Google meets their zooms, I put on open source and free desktop software, he said. I started to gain a lot of knowledge, I started with a PC then I went to a Mac, I started to learn this, I started to try my hand at Linux

Roth began refurbishing computers in mid-August and to date has restored over 40 computers. His donations help students at Portage Elementary School with those in the foster care system. Richard Blackman is with the Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA. He met Roth through his alderman during his quest for computers.

We got the call from the alderman, it was timely, as everyone was working to identify resources, to make sure all of our young people could participate in the distance learning program, Blackman said.

Blackman said Roth’s efforts were a real labor of love. He said the computers were like new and that Roth offered technical support.

Te was kind enough to even put his contact information on each of the laptops so families would find it difficult to contact him and for him to walk them through a tutorial, he said.

Roth said it could take up to four hours to reconfigure a computer, but said as long as there is a need, he will continue to help.

I really want to bring them to the families who have been affected by the pandemic, who are kind of in the same boat as me, who are unemployed and cannot afford to do it, Roth said.

Although the actor will have to wait for now, Roth is comfortable in his current role of helping others.

We just live in the most unique moments of our life and just try to make it a little better and that’s what I’m trying to do, he says.

If you would like to donate an old computer, you can contact Roth at [email protected]

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