By: Patricia Goubeaux, Ph.D.

Intel retiree Thalya Nero discovered just what she needed as she transitioned to a new life stage in an Intel-sponsored Encore Fellowship at AZStRUT (Students Recycling Used Technology). AZStRUT CEO Tom Mehlert also felt like he had found the perfect fit, confident that Nero “could hit the ground running” as she came on board as a Refurbishing Coordinator for the organization.

And Run She Did

Not only did Nero take off running, she never fully stopped. Six months later, dressed in a yellow AZStRUT t-shirt and joking with the crew at the organization’s bustling drop-off center, she is in her element. Some days she is at the center streamlining and documenting the refurbishing and distribution processes.  Other days she develops, coordinates, and teaches Techie Camps—extracurricular camps where 5th–12th grade students learn by re-assembling refurbished computers. Nero is especially proud of setting up and documenting a program that trains students to refurbish their schools’ technical equipment. “I get to fulfill my love of teaching while still using my technical skills,” she said.

Making a Difference

Mehlert praised Nero for optimizing computer configurations, teaching new processes to volunteers (many with various disabilities), and researching and implementing a new system for converting laptops into Chromebooks—the most common type used in schools. For AZStRUT this new product and more efficient processes lead to increased tech donations and enhanced services to schools.

Increased computer donations and trained, in-house students mean significant savings—one school district saved more than $250,000. For students, hands-on opportunities to work with computers build valuable real-world work skills. Beyond that, the experience offers inspiration and motivation to explore further study in technology and science.

Live Your Passion

When asked what insights she would share with others, Nero said “Figure out your passion and find somewhere where you can live.” By following her own advice, she found a greater sense of freedom and joy. Even after her Fellowship ended, Thalya continued with AZStRUT as a part-time Techie Camp coordinator and teacher. She is also searching for another work opportunity in which she can share her love of people and technology—where she will no doubt be able to “hit the ground running.”