On the football field, 17-year-old Loyola Academy senior Alex Amato looks like your average high school quarterback—athletic, broad-shouldered and square-jawed.
But off the field, this varsity quarterback is working to make his community better in a way that makes him stand out.
Alex, of Evanston and oldest of four, launched CHOICE Chicago—a not-for-profit that recycles computers—thanks to inspiration and guidance from his uncles. And he successfully grew it thanks to a little help from friends, his Catholic connections and Walgreens.
Alex’s beloved uncle, Charlie Amato, 60, also played football—at Notre Dame University. But soon after graduation, Charlie suffered a brain aneurism that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.
Alex grew up close to his uncle and realized a few years ago that he wanted to do something to help Charlie, but he wasn’t sure how.
Another uncle, Chris Amato, a fundraiser who started Kids Unlimited, a charity that works with inner city kids in Toledo, Ohio, offered him some advice: “Start a not-for-profit that does something to make the world better in Charlie’s honor.”
So in 2008, Alex reached out to his friends for help and launched CHOICE— Computers Helping Optimize Inner City Education.
The concept is simple: “We pick up people’s old computers and erase their info,” he says. “We then contact schools and donate the computers to them.” The Big Shoulders Fund helped Alex locate appropriate Chicago schools. CHOICE has also sent computers as far afield as Zambia and Nairobi, Kenya.
“It is the greatest feeling to know we’re having an impact,” Alex says.
Rarely does the founder of a not-for-profit make Alex’s statement: “We don’t need money.” But, he explains, “our biggest challenge is finding computers that work.” Until a substantial donation from Walgreen’s, 80% of the computers CHOICE received were broken.
Alex has ambitious plans for CHOICE. He hopes to receive another 200 computers by January 2011. And he’s making progress: In August, he received 30 computers from a law firm.
Alex also hopes to preside over a smooth transition to new CHOICE leadership—students who he and his friends have already recruited—when he graduates from Loyola and leaves for college.
Interested in helping Alex? If you have unused, functioning computers to donate, Alex or another CHOICE volunteer will pick them up. You can reach him through the Choice website, CHOICE Chicago.org or via email at [email protected].