Recently, Microsoft hosted the YouthSpark and EduTech Family Summit at UMass Boston.  The Summit brought together close to a thousand teachers, students, non-profits and governments leaders to discuss the opportunity divide among Boston’s adult and youth populations.

As a way to address the divide, Microsoft has partnered with local non-profit leaders like City Year, Year Up, the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, and civic leaders from Cambridge and Boston, as part of its YouthSpark program.  YouthSpark invests in young people by training them on the latest technology, exposing them to essential science and math curriculums, and providing them tools to make intelligent career decisions.

The event featured presentations by the Brookings Institution and Microsoft, and a panel of local leaders including, Dr. Jeffery Young, Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools; Jennifer Chase a Distinguished Scientist and co-founder of Microsoft’s Northeastern Research and Development (NERD);  Linda Noonan from the Business Alliance for Education; Brad Toney a City Year member; and Andrea Taylor of Microsoft. 

Each panelist was able to provide a unique perspective on ways to bridge the opportunity divide.

  • Brad Toney of City Year shared his experiences as an assistant math teacher at JFK Elementary in Boston, describing the positive impact first-hand mentoring has had on underserved neighborhoods. 
  • Dr. Jeffery Young touched on the social and racial opportunity divide in the Boston area, and highlighted the efforts by Cambridge Public Schools to ensure students of all economic and racial backgrounds are given equal chances to succeed. 
  • NERD’s Jennifer Chase highlighted the gender gap in the technology industry, and advocated for more proactive engagement with young women around science and technology. 
  • Linda Noonan shed light on the business side of the opportunity divide, focusing on what businesses are looking for in candidates and how they can provide the right resources to the community to help residents qualify for open positions.
  • Finally, Microsoft’s Andrea Taylor outlined the company’s YouthSpark vision, noting the deep, multi-year commitment made to technology education in underserved communities around the world.   

 In Massachusetts, Microsoft’s YouthSpark programs have reached more than 1,200 non-profits, helping them serve at-risk youth and their families.  Microsoft also donated more than $15 million in software and other donations in Boston in 2012. With the launch of YouthSpark in Boston, Microsoft is redoubling its efforts, along with those of its partners, to help area young people achieve more in the classroom and get ready for today’s workplace.

To learn more about Microsoft’s initiative to create opportunities for hundreds of millions of youth around the world, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/youthspark/.