Chicago actor uses computer hobby to help prep students for e-learning amid pandemic

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — When the COVID-19 pandemic forced David Roth out of work last March he spent his days fiddling with computers. 

But as the school year began to get underway this Chicagoan decided to use his hobby to help by prepping dozens of students for e-learning.   

David Roth is one of Chicago’s Very Own.  

If you take one look at his dining room table,you might mistake Roth for a computer repairman. 

“I’ve always been a tinkerer, take things apart and put them back together,” he said.

But as fascinated as Roth is with the inner workings of a computer, this Northsider is also an accomplished actor, and like so many others, he found himself without work as a result of the pandemic.

“Everything just stopped,” he said. “As freelancers, as a gig worker in that sense, as an actor, nobody could do anything.”

Roth said he was getting itchy with all the spare time until he read an article about the shortage of computers for remote learning and thought he could help. 

“I wipe them, I open them up, I clean them and I give them more memory so they run better,” he said.

With a couple of old laptops lying around, he got to work asking friends and family to send any old computers. He then installed the latest operating systems making it easy for student access. 

“Everything is the latest, so they can run all the new apps they can do their Google meets their Zooms, I put on office software that is open source and free,” he said. “I started just gaining a lot of knowledge, started out with a PC then I went to a Mac started learning that, started dabbling in Linux”

Roth began refurbishing the computers mid-August and to date has restored more than 40 computers. His donations helping students at Portage Elementary School to those in the foster care system. Richard Blackman is with Court Appointed Special Advocates Or CASA. He met Roth through his alderman during his quest for computers.   

“We got the call from the alderman it was timely, because everybody was scrambling trying to identify resources, to make sure all of our young people could participate in the remote learning program,” Blackman said.

Blackman said Roth’s efforts are a real labor of love. He said the computers are as good as new and Roth offers technical support.     

“Te was kind enough to even put his contact information on each of the laptops so the families experience difficulty they could actually contact him and he would walk them through a tutorial,” he said.

Roth said it can take up to four hours to reconfigure a computer but says as long as there is a need he will continue to help.   

“I really want to get them to the families that were impacted by the pandemic, that are kind of in the same boat I am, that are unemployed and can’t afford to do it,” Roth said.

Although acting may have to wait for now, Roth is comfortable in his current role-helping others.    

“We are just living in the most unique times of our lives and just trying to make it a little bit better and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said.

If you have an old computer you would like to donate, you can contact Roth at


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