Last week marked a big occasion for the Tellico Village Computer Users Club when the Technology Access Program helped its 10,000th young person.

Loudon High School senior Kevin Castro, with family, school and club representatives by his side, formally received the refurbished computer system May 7 in the LHS auditorium.

“It was a big deal,” Warren Sanders, TAP founder and co-chairman, said. “It’s a milestone we never thought would happen. I mean 10,000 kids that now have access to computer technology in their homes that wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Castro was chosen after Sanders reached out to LHS Principal Cheri Parrish. Castro was the right fit as he heads to college, she said.

“He’s hard working, he’s graduating, he’s very participatory in things that happen here at school,” Parrish said. “He’s going to go on to (East Tennessee State University) to college, and he’s wanting to study chemistry. So he’s just one of those kids that we see that is going to be successful in life, and we can make sure that he’s got a computer and printer going out the door for college, and that’s one less thing for his family to have to worry about.”

Castro plans a career in medicine.

“Big picture is to be a PA, physician’s assistant, with an orthopedic focus, because the reason I chose it is I had hip surgery from a car wreck,” he said. “I actually had to have a hip replacement, and it really interested me.”

Being picked was special to Castro.

“To me it was a big deal because Ms. Parrish, when she called me to the office, she told me, ‘Hey, we chose you as the 10,000th recipient,’ and then she told me a little bit about the history of the kind of program and everything and how long they’ve been doing it,” Castro said. “It meant a big deal to me, especially when I saw the program and how many people showed up (to the ceremony) and they talked a little bit about the history of the program. I was just really excited that I was the one chosen.”

The program gave away 862 systems in 2018, which surpassed the previous high mark a year before at 840, Sanders said. Last year, the group donated 93 computers to Caverna Independent Schools in Kentucky.

The TAP program is largely made possible by donations from the community, but also some from out of state.

“An awful lot of the equipment that we get to work on is given to us by people in the area, not just in the Village, but predominantly in the Village,” Sanders said. “We also have people in Lenoir City and areas around. We’ve got a couple people in Alcoa that caught things for us and bring them to us. There’s a couple in Oak Ridge that have a collection day for us twice a year. There’s a company in California that has shipped computers to us three times.”

Volunteers logged 7,600 hours last year, Sanders said.

“Our whole purpose is to get technology into the hands of as many kids that we can and the more systems we can give away — of course, we also give some to shut-ins and organizations,” he said. “We had a church in Knoxville come this morning and pick up six systems just for use in their church.”

TAP recently received recognition from the state for A Day of Recognition certificate, signed by Gov. Bill Lee, and a proclamation presented by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge. U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, last week stopped by the TVCUC office to change the tally board to 10,000.

Sanders believes volunteers do the work because they want to help.

“I don’t need the recognition and the proclamation from the legislature mentioned me by name, but the volunteers are the ones who have done this,” Sanders said. “… Every milestone that we hit is one that we never expected to reach when we started this 12 years ago.”