Daniel Kent had saved the money he needed to make his dream come true: $4,000 for a used car that would give him the independence that most teenagers seek.
Yet Kent decided to use the money to jump-start two organizations that he believed could change lives.
Using most of his savings, he founded Senior Connects, a volunteer organization that gives senior citizens the computer training to connect with others. He also started Net Literacy, an organization that provides computers for children to help in their education.
“I really wanted to have this organization grow beyond a backyard project,” says Daniel, a senior at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. “To do that required immense paperwork and legal aspects that were mind-boggling.”
Daniel believes the money was well-spent. Since 2003, Senior Connects has provided computer access to about 20,000 senior citizens in independent and assisted-living facilities in three states. His volunteer organization has also raised more than $500,000 in grants and donations of computers, many of which his group has refurbished and given to children from needy families.
“It started when I volunteered at my public library, teaching computer skills,” he says. “One day, I was teaching a gentleman who said he really enjoyed the program and he was talking about it to a friend at his retirement community. His friend was confined to a wheelchair, and he couldn’t learn how to use a computer because there was no one at the retirement home to teach him. I wanted to help his friend.”
When Daniel couldn’t find a program to help the man, he started Senior Connects. Now, there are about 150 student volunteers in the program that is expanding across the country.
Daniel’s rewards include the cookies that senior citizens sometimes bake for him. His parents also bought him a 2001 green Subaru sedan because “they got really tired of driving me all around,” Daniel says with a laugh.
“Our generation has been labeled ‘The Me Generation’ by a lot of sociologists and the general media,” he says. “My personal goal is to help everyone. By empowering others, not only do you provide them with more opportunities, it builds and leads to other people helping others.”