January, 2013

  • YouthSpark Star of the Week: Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project, Rural Uganda

    Editor’s note: this is the first in a regular series of posts featuring projects on Give for Youth, a micro-giving site focused on empowering young people around the world.

    “It takes children to raise a village.” – Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, founder & executive director, Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project

    In Uganda, over 2.2 million children have been orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Without their parents, many of these children go without an education or in many cases, having basic needs met. The Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project fights poverty by empowering these children, especially girls, through free, quality education, school supplies, healthcare and more.

    What makes this project special is the support for the students' caregivers and 7,000 area grandmothers through access to clean water, vegetable seeds, counseling, health care, micro-finance and more. The effort heralds the “unsung heroes of Nyaka” – the thousands of grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren after losing their own children to AIDS.

    Nyaka AIDS Orphan project

    "I grew up in rural Uganda where my parents sold goats, cows, & land to educate me. Despite not having parents to make such sacrifices, the students at Nyaka still have a chance for a bright future,” said Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, the executive director and founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project.

    Spark Change Today!

    Find out how you can help change lives and spark change via this cool project on Give for Youth. Just $10 can provide a young girl with school supplies to help her complete her education.

    Give for Youth is a Microsoft YouthSpark program.

    Learn More:

    Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project on Facebook and twitter

    A School for my Village” – by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri

    Jackson Kaguri, CNN Hero profile

  • The new Office is now available for nonprofits

    We’re excited to announce the availability of the new Office desktop applications for nonprofits through the Microsoft software donation program.

    Eligible nonprofit organizations and public libraries can order software through our nonprofit partner, TechSoup Global. Get started today.

    Features of the new cloud-integrated Office allow you to access and edit your documents using Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint from any computer, including touch enabled devices, whenever and wherever you want.

    One of the first things you’ll notice with the new Office is a new start screen. The start screen enables you to easily reach recently opened documents or get started with a template. The start screen also allows you to pin your favorite folders and locations, so they’re always available.

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    Additionally, you can connect to services, such as Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube to get images, videos, or files and easily insert them into your document or presentation.

    There’s also easier file sharing. If you have an account on SharePoint or Microsoft SkyDrive, you can save your files to one of those places, then use the “Share” command to let others read or edit your copy of the file. It’s a simple solution to maintain one copy with everyone’s edits.

    Ready to get started with the new Office? Here are a few simple steps you can take today to learn more:

    1. Find out how you can order the latest version of Office for your nonprofit.

    2. Join our #Office4Good TweetChat on Wednesday, January 30th @ 12pm PST with special guest Doug Thomas, the Office Casual guy. He'll give productivity tips and highlight his favorite features. This is a great opportunity for nonprofits to ask questions and get advice from one of the experts. We'll also share how nonprofits can get donated Microsoft software through our partner TechSoup. Join the conversation using the hashtag #Office4Good.

    3. Register for the new Office webinar on Friday, February 1st @ 2:00pm EST/11:00am PST, hosted by TechSoup. David Alexander, Product Marketing Manager on the Office Technical Marketing Team, will demonstrate the new Office and answer questions from nonprofits.

    4. Spread the word! Tell your favorite nonprofit about Microsoft’s software donation program and encourage them to visit www.Microsoft.com/nonprofit.

    5. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date with the Microsoft software donation program.

    If you have a favorite nonprofit let them know how they can get a software donation from Microsoft.

  • From woolly worms to a world of opportunities: Jeremy’s story

    How do you bring Computer Science education to students in schools that don’t have the resources or budget to provide it?

    “Technology is where he wants to be … he learned what he could on his own, but then he didn’t know where to go from there. He didn’t even know how to go from there.” This is how Tammy Moore described the challenges her son Jeremy faced as he tried to turn his interest in computers into something that might help him in the future.

    Jeremy is a high school student living in Beattyville, a small town in Lee County, Kentucky. Beattyville is home to about 1,200 people and an annual Woolly Worm Festival every October. (The Woolly Worm is a type of caterpillar that folklore holds may have the ability to predict winter weather, similar to the groundhog).

    Like many rural areas across America, Beattyville has struggled in recent years. “The economy here is very bad … it’s not where you want to go for work,” said Moore. But there’s a real sense of community pride, too. “You take the good with the bad. I just love it here and this is where I wanted to raise my kids,” she noted.

    In the past, Jeremy didn’t think much about attending college. According to his mom, his grades were “less than stellar.” All that changed when he started taking computer science classes through TEALS, a Microsoft YouthSpark program. TEALS – Technology Education And Literacy in Schools – brings computer science learning to classrooms that don’t have the resources to do so. Instruction is delivered by volunteers who work in the IT sector including Microsoft employee volunteers.

    In Beattyville, Jeremy’s third period computer science class is taught remotely using Microsoft Lync by Isaac Wilson, a Microsoft engineer in Redmond, Wash.

    Why is Microsoft putting engineers in schools to teach computer science? Because we recognize the urgent need to provide more qualified talent in computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields in the United States. The TEALS program, which originally started in Washington State, has now expanded to support schools in California, Kentucky, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia and the District of Columbia this academic year.

    “People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith told the New York Times recently, speaking about the shortage of computer science graduates. The shortage impacts technology companies and the global economy. In a recent speech at the 41st Annual Economic Forecast Conference, Smith pointed out that of 42,000 high schools in the U.S. only 2,103 offer AP computer science courses.

    TEALS and other programs that are part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative are designed to give young people access to education, employment and entrepreneurship.

    As for Jeremy, he’s now on his school’s honor roll and is thinking about attending college and becoming a software engineer. On TEALs and his YouthSpark experience, he said, simply: “It’s changed my life.”

    Learn more about Jeremy’s story on his YouthSpark Stars profile. And be sure to check out the 30+ free programs for young people offered on our YouthSpark Hub.

    You can also find out more about Microsoft’s National Talent Strategy by downloading our whitepaper.

  • New European partnerships aim to tackle youth unemployment

    Earlier today as part of our global YouthSpark initiative we held an event in Brussels with representatives from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to discuss the challenges facing young people in Europe.

    Around the world the prolonged economic downturn has disproportionately affected youth and it’s no different in Europe. The unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds in the European Union has increased by 50 per cent since the onset of the economic crisis, and the youth unemployment rate has reached more than 25 per cent in 13 Member States.

    According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions a total of 14 million people in the 15 to 29 age group can be classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training), costing the EU €3 billion per week in state welfare and lost production. At the same time four million jobs are vacant in the EU due to a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills required for available jobs.

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    This is why we launched Microsoft YouthSpark last September.  YouthSpark is a company-wide initiative to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.

    Today in Brussels as part of the YouthSpark initiative, we announced the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with three pan-European organizations:

    In addition to these three pan-European partnerships we are also providing 27 grants to youth-focused nonprofits in 25 countries across Europe.  We hope these partnerships will create opportunities for 30 million young people across Europe by promoting skills and training that will improve transition to the labor market, foster proactive citizenship that engages young Europeans in the online democratic debate as well as fostering work-readiness, talent and entrepreneurial spirit to support young people in finding work through quality traineeships and internships.

    Speaking at the event in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, to announce the Memoranda of Understanding, Brad Smith, Microsoft Executive Vice-President commented:

    “Young people in Europe are facing an opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the access, skills, and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Bridging this gap is a key concern for all of us, and we are committed to partnering with government leaders throughout the region to unlock the full potential of youth as a key driver of the region’s economic growth. Equipping young Europeans with eSkills will set the course for Europe to emerge from recession as a truly united and competitive global player based on a digitally connected society.”

    Microsoft has been supporting nonprofits in Europe since 2003 through education, technology skills training and entrepreneurship programmes as well as in-kind technology support. You can find out more at: http://www.microsoft.eu/empowering-youth/

    Want to learn more about YouthSpark and the programs available for young people today?  Visit the YouthSpark Hub.

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  • Eyewitness to the Future

    By Andrea Taylor, Director of Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs in the U.S.

    Washington, DC - Today the nation inaugurates Barack Obama or “44” for a second term presidency as we also commemorate the 84th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The juxtaposition of these events has generated much reflection in the media as well as other milestones later this year. In August, for example, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the precursor to passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

    As a teen, my family’s legacy of civic activism allowed me to join that historic 1963 March, along with more than 250,000 nonviolent protestors. Five years later when Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis hotel, I was a co-ed at Boston University (where Dr. King earned his PhD in 1955) studying journalism and eager to pursue a career at The Boston Globe chronicling education and community change. His murder deeply affected an idealistic generation, now baby boomers. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, we’ve seen societal shifts foreshadowed in Dr. King’s dream about equality and justice that have advanced civil and human rights, women’s empowerment, marriage equality and growing support for key issues like the environment, economic justice and health care.

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    Relic from the past: Andrea’s button from her participation in the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom.
    Once again, I’ll be on the iconic National Mall to celebrate an important American event. Dr. King’s prescient vision as articulated in the “I Have a Dream” speech will resonate in my thoughts. I was also there for the inauguration in 2009 and for the 20th anniversary of the March in 1983. There is a powerful link between Dr. King and President Obama, barely two years old when Dr. King spoke of “a nation where children would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” These reminders may bring tears to my eyes.

    However, I will not dwell on these memories but rather devote my energy to the realities of the 21st century world in which we live, where today’s youth constitute nearly 1.4 billion of the world’s population – the largest cohort ever. Young people need and deserve our support as they collect new memories and identify timely priorities about what really matters.

    Glimpsing the future, a privilege I share daily with colleagues at Microsoft and in the technology industry overall, the rapid pace of change is remarkable. However, such shifts present tremendous opportunities. Microsoft’s recently launched YouthSpark initiative is a great example. This global initiative provides resources to help empower youth to imagine their full potential and connect to improved opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. Ironically, similar concerns characterized the March on Washington which was, fundamentally, about jobs and freedom for all people. It’s a fact that unemployment in the U.S. and globally is incredibly high and the fiscal crisis facing many communities threatens freedoms often taken for granted.

    In my career, community and family, I’m obsessed with the future. Indeed, as a mentor and philanthropy professional, I’m always seeking greater understanding and wisdom about ways to inspire creativity, imagination and innovation among youth and people of all ages. This follows directly in the footsteps of Dr. King’s legacy and President Obama’s message of hope and ability to forge a new American coalition that has given wings to his leadership and offered a model for public service to a new generation.

    As we honor the inaugural tradition of our democracy, and the newer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, we are all beneficiaries of a rich, complex history and eyewitnesses to a future ripe with possibilities for changing the world and living a purposeful life.

    AndreaTaylor headshot Andrea L. Taylor is director of Microsoft’s Citizenship & Public Affairs in the U.S. focusing on the YouthSpark initiative and working with nonprofit organizations across the country. She is a trustee of Boston University, her alma mater, New York Public Radio, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
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