PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With the widespread presence of computers these days it is almost shocking to hear that someone does not have access to one. When you don’t have a home of your own, however, a computer seems a far off luxury.
Thanks to students at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, however, that luxury is now reality for residents of the Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter.
Shelter officials said Monday that students from MSSM had spent the day before installing a computer lab at the Presque Isle shelter. The computers were contributed by employees of MMG Insurance in Presque Isle through an effort spearheaded by Kris Mehta, MMG’s Senior Programmer-Analyst. The students donated their time.
The 28-year-old shelter serves families and individuals in need of emergency refuge. It has a 30 bed capacity and also offers showers, laundry facilities and three meals a day. It has served an average of 500 people and 6,000 bed nights a year over the past few years. Transitional housing and outreach services also are provided.
Before Sunday, residents did not have access to computers to use for educational or employment services. Public computers are offered free at the Mark and Emily Turner Library in Presque Isle, but it is not open all hours and is a significant trek on a cold winter day.
Six MSSM students worked together to hook up the computer lab — David Chen of Thomaston, Ryan Kelly of Mapleton, Thomas Murphy of Rockport, Hayden Satoris of Brunswick, Kineo Wallace of Milo and Andy Whitman of Holden.
Lisa Green, program manager at the shelter, said she was grateful for the student’s assistance in hooking up a lab that will serve current and future residents as they search for housing and employment opportunities.
“We are getting ready to roll out educational classes aimed at helping our residents find gainful employment,” said Green. “The computer lab will play a crucial role in those classes. We cannot thank MSSM enough for all that has been done for our shelter.”
She said that along with allowing residents to complete online employment applications and print out resumes, the lab also will enable them to stay in touch with family members via email. The MSSM students also installed games on the computers, which also were donated by MMG employees. She called those a “bonus,” noting that they would provide entertainment and alleviate stress.
“That leads to a happier shelter overall,” she said. “Educational games will help children to strengthen reading, writing and social skills, and hand-eye coordination.”
Luke Shorty, executive director of MSSM, said the students were accompanied by instructor Cynthia Trapnell.
“These young men should be proud of themselves,” he said. “I’m always impressed by the amount of time our students spend in the community. Their leadership and dedication to helping those in need will serve them well in life.”
This is the second time in the past two months that MSSM students have volunteered at the shelter. Last month, they helped paint the shelter’s interior and the school donated equipment and cabinetry that was used to replace part of the kitchen.
Opened in 1995, MSSM is a tuition-free public boarding high school. The Limestone school caters to students in grades 10 through 12 from approximately 81 Maine communities. A handful of students from out of state also attend MSSM each year. The majority of students live in residence halls on campus. In September, US News & World Report ranked it the 14th best math and science high school in the nation, and the top in New England. It has recognized MSSM as one of America’s Best High Schools every year since 2007.