Dayton man giving students a purpose

Lawrence Lindsey opens downtown lab to give students access to learn computer skills.

When Lawrence Lindsey returned to Dayton and began volunteering at Dunbar High School, he was surprised to learn that his alma mater didn’t have a computer lab. It was a big change from the affluent school district in Virginia where he had just come from as a guidance counselor.

Lindsey decided to do something about it.

With his own funds, Lindsey opened a computer lab downtown to help students who need access or are interested in computer science. Back to Basics Youth Education Center, at 120 W. Second St., is an after-school program that teaches students from Montgomery County and surrounding areas coding, programming and other skills they can use to get a job.

“I just thought there was a need there,” said Lindsey, 71, of Englewood.

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Lindsey launched the program in Virginia but moved the non-profit to Ohio when he moved to Dayton in 2014. The program has served between 200 and 300 students, who are mostly in high school.

Lawrence Lindsey is the Director of Back to Basics Youth Education Center. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
Lawrence Lindsey is the Director of Back to Basics Youth Education Center. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Kajuan Marable was one of those students. The 2021 graduate of Dunbar High School was introduced to Back to Basics as a sophomore by his grandfather, who knew that Marable had a “knack for computers.”

Marable has now enlisted in the Air Force and will be working in client systems, which involves cybersecurity and network management.

He had taken a computer class in school but was never taught coding until attending Back to Basics. When active-duty Air Force personnel volunteered to teach cybersecurity at the center, Marable was in.

But beyond learning about technology, Marable said he also learned about life, surrounded by good male role models – including Lindsey, who he said treated him like family. Attending the center motivated him.

“It gave me a purpose and something I could strive for,” he said.

Some of the students who participate in Back to Basics programs don’t otherwise have access to computers, and many don’t have internet access at home, Lawrence said. Many kids would come multiple times per week before COVID-19, but the pandemic has forced more lessons to be taught virtually.

Learning computer skills today can help students become more independent tomorrow, Lindsey said. He hopes the kids who use Back to Basics will consider earning computer science degrees, joining the military in a computer science capacity or becoming certified in cybersecurity or another field.

“My goal is to get as many kids interested in the computer sciences,” he said.

More about Back to Basics can be found at http://www.lbtbyec.org/.

Joyce Willingham nominated her cousin as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem and called him a role model who is passionate about working with the local community and exposing youth to new things.

“It’s a unique opportunity to pass on that coding skill,” said Willingham, of Harrison Twp.

Lindsey grew up on the west side of Dayton and was drafted into the Army in 1969. His orders to go to Vietnam were switched to Korea. When he returned, he earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and sociology from Central State University, and then attended the University of Dayton and joined the advanced Army ROTC program while receiving a master’s degree in counseling education.

He reentered the Army in 1976 and retired in 1995 as a U.S. Army major, having served throughout the country, as well as in Korea and Germany. He worked as a school guidance counselor in Fairfax County, Va., before returning to Ohio.

Back in Dayton, Lindsey has relied on a number of partners and volunteers to teach classes and provide opportunities for the students. But there’s still more to do.

“To this day, I’m still trying to get volunteers, trying to get funds and trying to get kids interested in computer science,” he said.

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