Alumnus helps children overseas get connected

Amanda Monthei

Curt Tucker, a Northern Michigan University alumnus, recently traveled to the city of Guaymate in the Dominican Republic to determine the practicality of installing green technologies in the community’s school.

He left with a myriad of ideas for improving upon not only the school itself, but also the livelihood of the students within the school.

“The first thing we did was replace all the wiring in the school,” said Tucker, a resident and business owner in downstate Saginaw. “It was just a mess and unsafe for the kids to be around.

“The first thing we did was fix the wiring and then we continued to walk around and take pictures, taking notes and drawing maps of the grounds.”

Having come with the intention to simply improve the conditions at the school, where 200 students attend classes, Tucker ultimately found a number of things that needed work.

“Our main (goal) was to repair the electrical system,” he said. “What we ended up doing was buying 10 computer tables and 10 desktop computers.”

Tucker said the project was primarily paid for by the nine individuals that went on the trip, himself included, but also business owners and churches in the Saginaw area.

After installing the computers, Tucker and the group that accompanied him ran into a problem with providing power to fuel the monitors.

“The power is only on for four hours a day,” he said. “It can go off at any time. And that’s where the problem lies with the computers; if the power turns off, it dumps everything that was open on them.”

The group decided that installing a backup battery pack would help with the possibility of losing power, but even the battery packs proved unreliable.

“When the power is on, it charges the battery backup system,” he said. “But that battery backup system only lasts for a very short time.

“What we want to do is find corporations and even individuals to partner with us on funding some solar powered panels, a bigger battery backup system with some solar panels, and then maybe some small wind generators for when it is cloudy out.”

Tucker is planning to return to the school in July, by which time he hopes to receive enough funding for not only new solar panels and generators, but for other structural improvements as well.

“My ultimate goal is to fix the infrastructure of the school,” he said. “We also want to secure funding to build new bathrooms and a kitchen to provide hot meals to the kids.”

Tucker has a much larger plan in mind in doing all of this, however.

“Ultimately, (we want) these kids to get a good quality education that will be a preview to a good high school education which will be a preview to college,” he said. “That is where the problem lies, they will never be able to afford a college education, so what were going to do is try and partner with some of the Michigan colleges.

“We’re going to try to get select students that are good in school, good leaders, and were going to supply the funding to send them to college and then once they graduate, they will go back to become community leaders and entrepreneurs. This is a lifetime project for us and I am dedicated to it.”

Tucker, who graduated from NMU in 1982 and again in 2008 from the School of Engineering Technology, said he hopes to make Northern a part of the project within the next decade.

“My heart is at NMU,” he said. “I certainly believe that if these students were at Northern, I would feel very confident that the community would take good care of them and that the university would take good care of them by giving them the world class education that Northern is known for.”

Tucker’s business, Teamtech Motorsports Safety, also took part in a project of their own by creating school bags for 600 students in the area surrounding the school.

The bags were created using a material that is typically used for window nets on race cars.

“Everyone donated money for school supplies so we packed those bags with pens, pencils, erasers, crayons and paper,” Tucker said.

Yet Tucker admitted his favorite part of the whole experience on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic was when they revealed the computer room to the students.

“We had done (the room) covertly,” he said. “They didn’t know what we were doing, they just knew we were up to something big. So when the kids opened that computer room, they were in tears, I was in tears.”