Today, we joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and several non-profit partners, including the United Way of Metro Chicago, the YMCA of Metro Chicago, Metropolitan Family services, and Children’s Home and Aid Society to announce the opening of 12 new Parent Engagement Centers at Chicago Public Schools’ community schools throughout the city.

With a donation from Microsoft, the Parent Engagement Centers will be updated with computers fully loaded with Microsoft Windows and Office, Internet access, and additional software.  Microsoft’s Digital Literacy curriculum, which is available in more than 30 languages, will be core to the technology experience at the Parent Centers.  Parents will receive computer training to help them developer core computer skills, and enable them to build resumes and look for employment opportunities.

While enhancing technology literacy amongst students is critical, we need to help their parents and caregivers, too.  Education begins in the home, and student success is directly related to parent engagement.  Parents need to be as literate in technology as they are in children’s books and school textbooks.  After all, a child’s first teacher is a parent.  

The intersection of technology and education have long been a passion for Microsoft.  We believe in the importance of empowering young people with the latest technology to ensure they are ready for the global, technology-driven economy.   Since 2003, Microsoft has given charitable donations totaling more than $128 million in cash, curriculum and software to nonprofits in the city of Chicago and in the state of Illinois. For the last five years, Microsoft has supported STEM education for girls at CPS through the annual DigiGirlz program, which provides high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on workshops.

Microsoft is also one of five corporate partners participating in the Early College STEM School program. Microsoft is partnered with Lake View High School to develop an Early College STEM School model and curriculum, and to provide mentoring, career planning and job shadowing to students, as well as professional development for teachers. Lake View High School has been chosen as a Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Schools Pathfinder School, part of a global program. The goal of the Pathfinder Program is to foster a culture of innovation and system-level change at their schools, in a manner that helps teachers prepare students for the realities of life and work in the twenty-first century.  And you’ll find Lake View and other innovative teachers collaborating on the Partners in Learning Network.

The addition of the 12 new Parent Engagement Centers in these community schools are a great example of what can happen when community and businesses leaders join together around a common vision—enhancing digital literacy for both students and parents.   By making a commitment to these centers and to our community partners, we are able to get technology in the hands of thousands of parents and students, and realize this common vision.