By: Marietta Davis, General Manager, Microsoft’s Greater Southeast District

Today, Microsoft Atlanta, along with Morehouse College, is hosting a YouthSpark Connections event in Atlanta. I am excited to take part in the conversation with prominent leaders from education, government and civic community to discuss new research by the Brookings Institution on the youth opportunity gap in Atlanta – and more importantly, what we can do about it.

The new Brookings research is arresting--one in four 16 to 24 year olds are not in school and have no more than a high school diploma. Of that group, nearly half are also unemployed – more than 80,000 young people in total.

With this research in mind, leaders from Microsoft and national non-profits such as Year Up and Youth Village, along with leaders from Georgia State Schools, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Atlanta City Council, will share ideas and provide examples about how they are addressing challenges facing Atlanta’s young people.

The findings show that we must expose young people to math, science, and technology to prepare them for the future and bridge this opportunity gap. To address this gap, we unveiled our YouthSpark initiative--a commitment to create 50 million opportunities for young people in the U.S. And I am even
more pleased to announce what this means for our community in particular:

  • Microsoft YouthSpark is a companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth worldwide, including 50 million young people in the United States
  • Microsoft donated more than $8.2 million in software and other donations in Atlanta in 2012
  • Also in 2012, Microsoft employees in Georgia volunteered 2,818 hours
  • In Atlanta, Microsoft has served 830 nonprofits with our programs
  • Microsoft’s YouthSpark partners in Georgia include:
    • Boys and Girls Club of America
    • Year Up
    • Youth Village
    • Toys for Tots
    • North Fulton Community Charities Food Drive

And we’re not done there. Today we announced a new education alliance agreement with Morehouse College. This alliance will give Morehouse students access to new technology, mentorship, career opportunities, and new experiences, ones they cannot get in the classroom. 

In addition to this new alliance, we unveiled a $7.5 million donation in software and technology to Youth Villages, one of the leading non-profits focused on bettering the lives of foster children. With a major campus in the Atlanta area, and others in North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, Youth Villages is uniquely positioned to help foster children get the technology training they need to be successful in school and in the job market.

I look forward to hearing what our panel shares about their experiences with the youth opportunity divide and the strides we all are making to bridge the gap. For the YouthSpark panel discussion, we will be hosting:

  • Lenny Springs, US Department of Education, Senior Advisor, Federal Student Aid
  • Dr. John Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent
  • Wes Moore, Youth Advocate and Author
  • LaDarrius White, Morehouse College, Senior
  • Lindsey Craft, Strategic Accounts Manager, Microsoft Education

Through my work as a board member on several youth and educational nonprofit organizations in the Atlanta area, I have witnessed firsthand the impact these programs have on our children. There are so many amazing organizations and tools for students to be a part of. You can learn more and get involved here.