Erick Moore and A’Lonya Linton work on a desktop PC April 16, 2013 at the Computer Exchange. The Exchange, which opened this month, is a place where Boys and Girls Club students learn job skills by refurbishing donated computers for resale. (Staff photo by Diccon Hyatt.)

Trenton High School senior A’Lonya Linton dreams of going to college and becoming a computer technician. And thanks to the Computer Exchange,which just opened in Marrazzo’s Shopping Center on Parkway Avenue in Ewing, she has a place to get a head start.

The afternoon of April 16 found Linton working with fellow student Erick Moore and manager Ryan Teel to refurbish old computers. A few weeks on the job had taught her the basics of working with PC hardware.

“Just on Monday, I had a test on cat-5 cable,” she said. “I passed.”

The Computer Exchange is a new program by the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton. Based on the successful Bike Exchange, also located in a shopping center storefront in Ewing, the Computer Exchange is a place where people and businesses can drop off old computers.

At the exchange, students who attend the Boys and Girls Club will clean up the machines and put them up for sale at a discount price, usually from $50 to $100.

“We’re trying to create a career pathway,” said Boys and Girls Club executive director David E. Anderson at the exchange’s opening day. “They can build computer skills to help them understand what it’s like and get essential training. That can then lead to entry-level jobs in the computer industry.”

The proceeds from the store help fund the Boys and Girls Club. The students gain skills and earn money, and the community gets low-cost, if somewhat used, computers. (Before sale, the students wipe the hard drives, freshly install a new operating system and antivirus software.) The kids also get money, about $500 for completing a 100-hour internship. After that, they might get to come on board as a part -time worker for a regular wage.

Everyone wins, Anderson said.

Anderson said 50 students, many of them from Ewing High School, were set to rotate through the Boys and Girls Club skills training programs. In addition to the bike and computer exchanges, the club also partners with a barber who works out of the club’s Center Street headquarters and reserves two chairs for students of the art of cutting hair.

The computer exchange got off to a roaring start with donations from Rue Insurance of Hamilton and Mathematica Policy Research leaving the storefront overflowing with black Dell desktops. There were also several laptops and tablet computers for sale.

But the ultimate purpose of the exchange is not about the machines, it’s about the people fixing them. Teel said the kids were getting skills that could help them find jobs down the road, and which many of them found to be fun.

“It’s an adventure,” he said.

Adults who work with the kids said some students benefit greatly from the hands-on experience of work programs.

“I think it’s fun to watch them sort of mature,” said club volunteer Barbara Alditch, who has helped out at the Bike Exchange and organized bike drives. “We had this one kid. When he started, he never said anything … after a few months, he came out of his shell and was joking with everyone. It was great.”

The Boys and Girls Club Computer Exchange is located at Marrazzo’s Shopping Center, 1400 Parkway Ave. in Ewing. The store is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

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Diccon Hyatt is business editor of U.S. 1. He has worked for Community News since 2006 and was previously community editor of the Ewing Observer, the Hopewell Express, the Lawrence Gazette, and the Trenton Downtowner. From 2003 to 2006, he was a general assignment reporter for the Middletown Transcript in Middletown, Delaware. In 2002, he graduated from the University of Delaware, where he was features editor of the student newspaper, The Review. He has won numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware D.C. Press Association and the Association of Free Community Newspapers for features, news, and opinion writing. He is married and lives in Marlton, NJ.