I am excited to see what the new year brings to Mendez High School in East Los Angeles. We recently adopted the Engineering & Technology and Math & Science schools on the campus and gave them over $1 million to buy new software and hardware to provide them with the means to create a replicable model for STEM learning. It’s not just a technology donation, Microsoft is partnering with school leaders to provide leadership training and training for the teachers to help them better integrate technology into their classroom instruction and lesson plans.

Mendez is one of 21 schools that are part of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools that was started by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to improve education in the district by turning around the city’s lowest performing schools. In addition to training teachers and staff, Microsoft will also be coaching and mentoring the students at Mendez…not only showing them technology, but also offering opportunities focused on career awareness to help prepare the youth for the competitive Los Angeles and U.S. job market.

When we announced this news, it was great to see the enthusiasm of kids.  It just underscores the potential that technology can have to transform and provide a launching path for exploration of careers, as well as exploration of how to use the tools to solve some of the world's toughest challenges. I personally love days like this, because I not only get a chance to see and hear from teachers and see schools directly…but I get a chance to really connect with kids who are excited about their future, and are thinking about ways in which they can not only create a better world for their families and themselves, but also impact society.

It’s great to see kids thinking about the future. Every conversation I had with the students, I asked them what they wanted to do to make a living, where they were planning on going to college, etc.  A lot of times you get students who don't have good answers to those questions in high school, and a lot of these kids didn't yet, but the ones that did, I feel like we've got to share their examples with others to say start thinking earlier…start thinking about not only where you want to go to college but how you can connect the quality of your education to the future jobs that are available to you. I had a conversation with one student who was interested in forensic medicine, and she's not interested in forensic medicine because of TV shows like CSI…she wants to help use that science to cure diseases. It is inspiring to see kids who are really thinking about some of these tough issues, and thinking about the world beyond themselves.

The technology here at Mendez, just like in every school, is just part of the solution.  So, we're providing a foundation, but it really goes beyond that.  Microsoft's hope with Mendez is to incubate innovation and take these examples to help advance the way in which schools think about technology…and the way in which we think about the expectations we set for students.  I left the school with a challenge to start an Imagine Cup team.

This is just the first step for Mendez and part of a larger momentum LA has to reform schools.  We've seen some great results from the Mayor's innovative schools, and the work that the new LA leadership is thinking about with regards to school reform and technology's usage there. We're excited about the ongoing partnership in LA, and the potential for the future of the students.