Programs that refurbish obsolete computers for students and schools who couldn't otherwise afford them are catching on in communities from coast to coast.

The trend began with the vision of one thinker from California.

Almost a decade ago, California businessman John Detwiler got the idea for a program that helps businesses, prison inmates, and schools. Detwiler knew businesses had usable, but aging, computer equipment. He knew schools needed to increase their computer-to-student ratio. It occurred to him that prison inmates could be trained to upgrade donated business computers for use by schools, imparting a valuable skill to the inmates while benefiting...

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