This 12-year-old’s bold mission? To get laptops to students in need.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Daisy Hampton noticed that students with disabilities aren’t always supported by classmates. This past summer, she learned that students lacking laptops for remote learning is a widespread problem. So she pivoted from her focus on friendships to include distribution of donated laptops.

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A childhood spent participating in marches and activism with her mother instilled a passion for social justice in Daisy Hampton early on. “If you see something,” the seventh grader explains, “you find ways to take action. And that difference can save people or change the community for the better.”

That drive led Daisy to found her organization, Including You, which focuses on forging friendships with peers with disabilities, and more recently, to getting laptops into the hands of students who need them. After school, she often delivers laptops or meets with donors, communicates with those seeking devices, and writes thank-you notes to donors. She also writes blog posts on the organization’s website and posts on her social media to raise funds. By mid-January, Daisy and her mother expect to have distributed 150 to 175 laptops.

Why We Wrote This

Seventh grader Daisy Hampton grew up helping others. So when remote school left some of her classmates behind, she found a small way to reach out and make a big difference.

There is an extensive waiting list, as thousands of New York public school students are still without laptops. But Daisy is determined to keep working to get them into students’ hands.

“I’ve learned how these little issues I noticed can make big differences in people’s lives,” says Daisy. “I think that if you have the right motivation, the right inspiration, you can do it, at any age.” 

The timing was perfect. Just a day earlier, New York City’s public schools had closed again due to rising COVID-19 rates, and students had returned to remote learning. That included nearly 60,000 schoolchildren who were without laptops or hot spots to participate in online classes or do their schoolwork. 

So when 11-year-old Daisy Hampton and her mother, Jennifer Hampton, showed up at Public School 723x@189x in the Bronx with donors Chuck and Chad Grimley and 10 Chromebooks, Deidre Nowak was ecstatic.

“Christmas early, honestly,” says Ms. Nowak, unit coordinator at the school, which primarily serves students on the autism spectrum. She explains that 17 of the school’s students needed the laptops, including one who had not received a device since the pandemic began. Students with disabilities who lack laptops and daily instruction fall especially behind, she adds.  

Why We Wrote This

Seventh grader Daisy Hampton grew up helping others. So when remote school left some of her classmates behind, she found a small way to reach out and make a big difference.

As New York’s Department of Education (DOE) was not able to provide laptops in time, Ms. Nowak found herself turning to other teachers via social media for help. This led her to Daisy.

“Someone had posted, ‘A friend’s daughter is doing this really great thing, helping kids who don’t have devices in the DOE,’” Ms. Nowak says. “So, I thought, let me just try, and I emailed. It led us to getting wonderful laptops.”

At the heart of Including You – Daisy’s organization focusing on youths forging friendships with peers who have disabilities – is Daisy’s determination to do something about the world around her. The much-needed work of this seventh grader has been spreading by word-of-mouth, thanks especially to her efforts to get laptops into the hands of the many students who need them. Including You’s goal is “to be as inclusive as possible.”

“Closing the digital divide is part of inclusion,” Daisy says. “It’s an ongoing issue as there’s more technology, and as more schoolwork is being put online.”

Mother-daughter marches

A passion for social justice was instilled in Daisy early on. Her mother works in behavior change communications, which aims to promote changes in people’s attitudes and behaviors, and has long been active in education reform. She has taken part in education and social justice marches, including the Disability March starting in 2018, and the 2019 Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Marching alongside her mother helped Daisy develop a practice of helping others through activism. “If you see something,” Daisy explains, “you find ways to take action. And that difference can save people or change the community for the better.”

Even before COVID-19, Daisy was aware that some New York City students did not have access to laptops. Some of Daisy’s classmates would ask to use hers. By the time the pandemic hit, the glaring disparity could not be ignored.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Opening boxes of equipment on Dec. 5, 2020, at home in New York, Daisy Hampton works with donors to connect students with the technology they need for remote learning.

“You had 30-something kids in your class,” Daisy’s mother says to her. “I never saw more than 10, but that may have been Zoom fatigue. But I knew that there were several kids who would not attend, and they were very poor. They would never have phones. There are many kids like that in the city.”

Initially, Daisy wrote letters of support to first responders and mentored other students through Best Buddies, an organization that works with people with disabilities. But then, one day, Daisy told her mother something that Ms. Hampton says came out of the blue: “I want to do something to help kids who have disabilities or face income inequality,” Daisy recalls saying.  

A connection in Mississippi

Including You was founded earlier this year as a mentorship program that allowed young people with disabilities to gain a friend from beyond the special education community. Last summer, as the Hamptons traveled home after vacationing in New York’s Hudson Valley region, the program’s scope expanded. As the family chatted with their driver, he told them how many families in the region could not afford to buy laptops.

“That made me realize how widespread this issue is,” Daisy says. “It’s not just the city. It’s all over that people are facing this, and I just think how more people need to be aware of it and see how they can help.”

To inspire their own initiative, they were put in contact with Family Biz Builder, a youth training and development nonprofit in Tunica County in Mississippi. In March, Family Biz Builder developed a youth mentorship program for local children, many of whom live below the poverty line. When in-person mentoring was no longer possible due to social distancing recommendations, the program sought laptops to establish virtual connections instead.

“Daisy and Jennifer donated 25 laptops to service the kids, the mentees, that we have,” says Peggie Henderson, Family Biz Builder’s executive director. “We are constantly working to get more laptops. We have 50 kids in the program, and we’re halfway there.”

The Hamptons have also donated 20 hot spots to the nonprofit and have arranged for Including You’s young mentors to be trained to volunteer with Family Biz Builder. The mentors at Including You were initially Daisy’s friends and classmates at school. But as word spreads of her initiative, a waiting list has grown to nearly 30 young people nationwide eager to volunteer their time. Daisy recruits these mentors herself and holds regular video meetings with them.

Waitlists for help  

As Daisy began to donate laptops to students in New York City, teachers from across the city have been reaching out to her. She and her mother sometimes receive donations of used laptops, which allows Daisy to practice her robotics skills to make any necessary repairs.

“Schools are asking for 50 computers and 75 hot spots,” Ms. Hampton says. “And we’re like, we’re just a mother-daughter here. And they’re writing to her, sending these long things and sometimes she’s responding, and I have to say, ‘This is an 11-year-old!’”

Despite her young age and school commitments, Daisy dedicates time to Including You almost daily. After school, she often goes to other schools to deliver laptops or meet with donors, communicates with those seeking devices, and writes thank-you notes to donors. She also posts on her social media to raise funds, and writes blog posts on Including You’s website.

By mid-January, Daisy and her mother expect to have distributed 150 to 175 laptops, and the Grimleys to have given Ms. Nowak the seven additional computers her school needs.

There is an extensive waiting list, Ms. Hampton says, as thousands of New York public school students are still without laptops. But Daisy is determined to keep working to get them into students’ hands.

“I’ve learned how these little issues I noticed can make big differences in people’s lives,” says Daisy, who turned 12 in mid-January. “I think that if you have the right motivation, the right inspiration, you can do it, at any age.” 

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