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'Smallest act of kindness can go a long way': Va. teen makes desks for students in need

Colby Samide building a desk in his Northern Virginia garage for students without their own workplace. Photo by Jay Korff/ABC7 News
Colby Samide building a desk in his Northern Virginia garage for students without their own workplace. Photo by Jay Korff/ABC7 News
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Reporter's Notebook: During the pandemic, we’ve featured people using their talents to give back to others in need. For teenager Colby Samide, his passion for woodworking and volunteering has led to dozens of students getting their own workspace while going to school online.

“So, I’m actually going to start first by cutting some boards in the back,” Colby Samide tells me as he heads into his garage and plugs in his dad’s miter saw.

Colby Samide is a 17-year-old junior at Woodgrove High School in Purcellville, Virginia. I caught up with him as he was wrapping up his first week of making desks for children in need. He got the idea from the Facebook group Desks by Dads. Colby started his own Facebook page called Desks for Distance. Soon after that, the requests poured in.

“As long as I can remember I just love to put things together and figure out how things work. About three years ago I signed up for a woodworking class at Woodgrove and I just fell in love with it ever since. I’ve built a lot of things since then and I saw this as a potential way to help my community and I just jumped on the idea,” says Samide.

Samide walked us through his process while making two desks. Later in the day he personally delivered desks to his high school and a nearby elementary school. Colby works with parents and schools to find children who don’t have a desk of their own while going to virtual school.

“So right now, I’m going to cut a 37-inch plank. The 37-inch plank is the support. It stops the desk from wobbling back and forth. I’m going to cut it on the miter saw. I use pocket holes to hide all the screws, so everything looks clean and flush. It ends up looking really nice at the end.”

He’s got the desk making process down to a science. He works assembly line-style and can build a solid desk pretty quickly.

Colby adds, “I came up with the idea and ran it by my parents and I said I could maybe build 5 or 10 desks. So far, I’ve actually created 38 desks. I want to say I’ve delivered 30. I’m building two more today. I’ll have 40 done by today. Having it blow up overnight it’s awesome because I never thought I’d be able to produce this many and it feels amazing to give back and help my community.”

His principal, Sam Shipp, couldn’t be more proud.

“It’s just very impressive to see something like this happen. And it’s a need. As we go into distance learning we know that there are a lot of families still scrambling and trying to figure out how to make things happen. And for him to be stepping in and helping these families with something like a desk, which can be a significant thing for families, it’s super. It’s not the school principal. It’s not the parent liaison. It’s not a teacher. This is a student that’s making this happen for the community,” says Shipp.

Samide says the best part of this whole process is dropping off the desks. The other day he dropped off a desk to Brey Higginbotham and her 10-year-old son Eric who live in Fairfax County.

“And I just was saying that I needed a desk. That I really needed to find one and everywhere I looked was completely sold out. It touched my heart, especially right now. Trying to do this whole distance learning is so complicated and difficult as it is and having a good set up is so important. It literally is like the light at the end of the tunnel. There is still humanity. There is still that kindness in everybody and people that just want to take a little bit of the burden off someone else and it’s wonderful.”

Eric told us normally he has to learn online and do his homework from a couch. He tells us the desk is perfect, just the right size.

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“It’s awesome. This kid is really nice and talented because he knows how to do all this stuff,” says Eric.

Colby concludes, “My main message I would like to give is just to give back. There’s a lot of help that’s needed around here especially with this pandemic and everything. There’s a lot of need that goes unnoticed. The smallest act of kindness can go a long way for someone who needs it.”

Colby, with the help of volunteers, expects to build more than 100 desks for students in need. And Eric's mom tells us that her son, in the first week of online school, was named student of the week in his class.

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