Campus Maddie Luebke Nov 12, 2018 Uncategorized

Students start nonprofit for education


A new non-profit organization on campus is helping people who don’t have access to technology both nationally and around the world. The Five North project aims to give students a chance to experience more hands-on learning in communities that don’t typically have access to these sort of experiences. The Five North Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity working on sending computers to communities that need them.

“Right now the organization is preparing for a shipment of 528 computers to the Volta Region of Ghana that will be shipped next year,” said Austin Barajas (’20). Barajas is one of the student leaders on campus heading this project.

Barajas and his team at Alma are working with a team at University of Michigan to help this campaign reach even further than what they could get to at Alma.

“We now have another University of Michigan student helping lead the project and multiple students from Alma College who are volunteering with us,” said Barajas. “We also recently entered the Optimize Challenge through the University of Michigan, which will help us gather support and advice from professionals and mentors.”

Many students working on the project have become really invested in the students they are working to help and much of this will be rewarded with a trip to the communities they are helping.

“One of the exciting factors of our project, is that members of the organization will have the opportunity to travel to Ghana to distribute computers and implement the project,” said Barajas. “We will be developing a small curriculum for workshops that we can implement in the schools which will include how to use the software installed on the computers, basic repair, basic use, and setup.”

A few other Alma students are cooperating with University of Michigan and Barajas to make this project a success.

“This was something I wanted to do because I’ve learned a lot about how education and access to technology can benefit students in developing countries, and this was a great opportunity to be directly involved in giving people that opportunity,” said Caroline Smerdon (’20). “We live in a digital world, and giving these students access to computers helps them to be a part of that world.”

This non-profit hopes to put more of an emphasis on learning technology in classrooms globally. They aim to close the divide between educational systems globally by providing international primary and secondary schools. This provides them with resources to foster a more handson learning environment.

“It took a few weeks to organize ourselves and determine what our project’s focus would be, but we eventually decided to focus on technological literacy and education,” said Barajas.

They realized many different complications with running this project, including getting these computers to where they need to go.

“We will most likely be using a 20 foot shipping container to send our supplies and resources, and we are working with local Ghanaian authorities and organizations to ensure the container arrives to the city of Ho, where our volunteer students will be working,” said Barajas.

Barajas realized that these complications are what stop college age students from making real progress in the world.

“A lot of students care what’s going on in the world, but we, as students, often fail to get past the talking stage of the issue,” said Barajas. “I think it is important to take that next step by becoming active. It is one thing to talk about an issue, but it is another to take action and make meaningful change on an issue.”

Alma College provides many opportunities for students to travel and volunteer, but the Five North Project takes it to the next level.

“Alma gives us so many opportunities to travel and learn about the challenges that people in other parts of the world face, but it’s incredible to be a part of a group of students who are passionate about those issues and take action to make a difference.” said Smerdon.

If students are interested in learning more about this project, reach out to Austin Barajas (barajas1a@ or www.

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