UM First Star Academy Surprised Foster Teens with Laptops and Opportunity in Partnership with T-ROC and One Laptop Per Child

T-ROC founder and CEO Brett Beveridge GRAD YEAR greeted 18 of the 25 students, imparting some words of wisdom, and then gifted them the laptops and laptop backpacks. (Photo credit: Manny Hernandez)

Coral Gables, Fla. (June 21, 2021) – The Revenue Optimization Companies, in partnership with One Laptop Per Child and First Star University of Miami Academy, surprised 25 rising juniors and seniors of the First Star 2021 – 2022 academic program with new laptops and intensive technology career experiences that will lead to summer-long internship opportunities. Miami Law’s Children and Youth Law Clinic is a key partner, along with UM’s School of Education and Human Development, in the holistic college prep program for youth impacted by the child welfare system. 

Receiving the laptops is a critical step in helping the group of Miami-Dade high school students who have been part of the foster care system participate in this year’s First Star UM Academy for an intensive four-year college preparation program. The laptops will go on to serve them as they continue their education and even begin their careers. As part of the partnership with First Star, T-ROC’s subsidiary companies, Mobile Insight and SYMBITS created a tailored curriculum for the students, and those graduating this year will join the T-ROC team as summer interns, with a chance at landing jobs as T-ROC employees to kick off their careers.

“Our First Star students all have natural talents but do not get as many opportunities to develop their skills and potential,” said Kele Stewart, associate dean of experiential learning at the University of Miami School of Law and Director of the Children and Youth Law Clinic which focuses on helping current and former foster youth. “Partnering with T-ROC and One Laptop Per Child for this year’s program has meant the students will have a great opportunity to learn and succeed. We’re so proud of how our community comes together to make great things happen for kids who deserve it most.”

“We wanted these rising stars to know that having a difficult start to life doesn’t mean you can’t shape your future to be bright,” said Beveridge, a UM alumnus. “Providing laptops to these students will support their learning and enable them to get one step closer to achieving their career goals. I look forward to seeing what all these kids will come to accomplish.”

As of January 2021, OLPC has delivered over 3 million XO laptops in 25 languages in 46 countries. OLPC’s approach to learning is child-centric rather than teacher-centric. The computer is a learning platform, and teachers are essential guides in the learning process, but wisdom belongs to the learner.

“OLPC did its first project in Miami in 2010. That project pioneered some new concepts. Partnerships became an essential model that we are now replicating across the world,” said Mariana Ludmila, CEO of One Laptop Per Child. “It is great to be adding a new project in Miami, and we are thankful that T-ROC chose OLPC to benefit students of First Star University of Miami Academy.”

“Our goal is to educate as many youths around the world as possible, and this partnership with T-ROC and First Star means that happens for even more kids in South Florida,” said Maria Tefel, operations and logistics manager of One Laptop Per Child. “We’re excited for the new things these students will learn and the opportunities they will have thanks to this scholastic alliance.”

First Star UM Academy is an intensive four-year college preparation program on the University of Miami campus for youth affected by the foster care system. Students live in residence halls and attend daily academic and life-skills classes. Using a strengths-based and trauma-informed approach, the summer program seeks to ensure youth graduate high school prepared for higher education and have the supports and social-emotional skills necessary to transition to adulthood successfully. T-ROC’s program will coincide with the Academy’s program.

“This is the type of partnership that truly helps us achieve First Star’s mission for our students,” said Maria Pia De Castro, program director of First Star University of Miami Academy. “The kids not only benefit from the laptops, but from the relationships, we will be building together with T-ROC and One Laptop Per Child as well as the opportunities for our First Star participants.”

Photos and video from the event. (Photo credit: Manny Hernandez; Video credit: T-ROC)

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First Star University of Miami Academy is an intensive four-year college preparation program for youth affected by the foster care system. National non-profit First Star, Inc. partners with universities and child welfare agencies throughout the country to make a long-term investment in foster youth and change the course of their lives, from trauma to academic achievement and self-sufficiency. The program consists of four residential summers, during which students live on the University of Miami campus, and monthly sessions during the school year. The First Star Academies — now on 13 college campuses across the country — have significantly improved the outcomes of participating youth across the country. To learn more, visit the website.

T-ROC is a retail branding and consulting partner that supports companies in navigating through today’s retail shopping experience, redefining the power of people and technology. T-ROC offers a unique combination of people-based services, applications, technology management, mystery shopping programs, actionable market research and competitive insights that support the complex needs of assisted selling. T-ROC’s expertise and next-generation technology is delivered by a team that’s all in to drive sales, optimize performance and deliver measurable ROI for businesses every single day.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing, and self-expression. In partnership with the public and private sectors and non-governmental organizations and supported by comprehensive implementation and pedagogical services, OLPC seeks to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, connected computer that empowers individual learning and growth. OLPC is more than a laptop; it is a learning project. To learn more, visit

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