The Community School of Excellence (CSE) is the home to the student club called the Asian Penguins. Don’t be surprised by the name of the student organization. And you’re correct to guess that there are no penguins in Asia. CSE is the only Hmong charter school that has a Linux users group as a student club.
What is Linux, you might ask? Linux is a computer operating system, comparable to Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX. The mascot for Linux software is a penguin named Tux, and since most of the students are Asian, they merged the two names and created a totally new name for the club, the Asian Penguins.
So, what do the students in the club do? At school, these Penguins install a version of Linux called Ubuntu onto computers to get them booted up and working.
Next, the penguins install other free open source programs onto the computers to make them usable, such as LibreOffice. LibreOffice is comparable to the Microsoft Office Suite. It is a program that enables the students to type up a document, create a presentation, and also to create spreadsheets.
Okay, so now that all the students have set up a computer using a new operating system, what happens next? Well, at the end of this process, the students go on trips, called missions, to donate the computers to CSE families who face the challenges of the digital divide. It makes sense to teach students to use open source programs, like Linux, that are free in order to really give back to their community. This year, the Asian Penguins have gone on eight missions to donate computers to families and have three more missions lined up before the end of the school year. The students take a lot of pride in being able to donate and make a difference in their communities.
Mr. Stuart Keroff is the faculty advisor for this student organization and he invited me to be his co-advisor because the student organization had grown from 10 students to over 40. I felt privileged and was very excited to go on the most recent mission. On this mission, we took a crew of four students. Every student had a very specific role. The students on the mission were a Karenni translator, a mission leader, an assistant, and a photographer. This mission was very unique because this was the first time that the penguins donated a computer to a fellow penguin. We arrived at the apartment, and the student’s mom held the door open for us so that we could carry the computer parts inside. Then once we were inside, the four students started to assemble the computer. Before I could even snap a picture, the penguins were done setting up. The excitement continued to build when the computer turned on. Next, the lead showed the parent how to open some of the programs such as LibreOffice, Tux Typing, Tux Math, and Tux Painting. Then we waited for the Karenni translator to explain how to use those programs. The students helped each other out and were very patient with one another.
Afterwards, on our drive back to school Mr. Keroff debriefed the mission with the penguins. One question really stood out to me, he asked, “What went wrong about this mission?” I thought about it and couldn’t find anything that we did wrong. We introduced ourselves, we showed the Mom how to open the programs, the students were polite, what could we have done wrong? None the students knew the answer either, so being the great teacher that he is Mr. Keroff asked again but this time he scaffolded, “We just went into a Southeast Asian home to deliver a computer, what was the first thing we should have done?” Then it struck me and the students at the same time.
“We forgot to take off our shoes!” one of the students replied as the rest of us started to giggle about how we could have forgotten such a thing.
Now if that was the worst thing we did on that mission, it really wasn’t all that bad. That day, the penguins held their chins high on the ride back to school; happy that they could change the world, one household at a time.
Are you interested in helping the Asian Penguins? The Asian Penguins would be glad to accept donations of either money or working hardware. Please contact Stuart Keroff at email@example.com.
The penguins have also recently created a three minute youtube video which you can view here:
They are also currently featured on the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) website. You can find the links here:
You can find more information and view pictures regarding our Asian Penguins at our website: