March, 2013

  • From We Day to We Act!

    By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

     We knew that We Day in Seattle was going to be something special, but I’m not sure we were could have imagined the incredible energy, excitement and passion of the 15,000 young people who rocked Seattle’s KeyArena stadium yesterday. Athletes, activists, and actors – Magic Johnson, Martin Sheen, and Jennifer Hudson, to name just a few - congratulated teenagers from across the region on the positive actions they’ve taken in their communities and inspired them to do even more.

    As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured below) told the crowd yesterday, when you power your creativity and passion to help others with the latest cutting-edge technology, the only limit to your impact is your imagination. The young people who attended We Day are determined to change the world for the better, and we’re cheering them on every step of the way as they now channel their energy into We Act - their year-long community service projects and commitments to help others near and far.


    We Day encapsulates many of the reasons we created Microsoft YouthSpark. We believe that inspired youth, empowered by technology, can have a profound impact throughout the world. Anyone who experienced yesterday’s event will have no doubt that today’s youth have the smarts, the talent, and the skills to make a real impact for a better tomorrow.

    For a glimpse into yesterday’s excitement, including photos of our YouthSpark Reporters and Ambassadors, as well as a host of stars from Kid President to Demi Lovato, Jennifer Hudson and Macklemore, check out the slideshow. You can also read Steve Ballmer’s comments here.


  • Welcome to Seattle, We Day!

    The wait is over – today is We Day! We’re at Key Arena in Seattle, joined by 15,000 young people from nearly 400 middle and high schools around the region who all earned their place in the stadium by serving their communities and working together to make the world a better place.


    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be on the main stage this morning to share his thoughts on the unique opportunity that young people have to change the world. Since we launched Microsoft YouthSpark in September 2012 we’ve been focused on enabling young people to discover opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, and employment. We Day’s focus on inspiring the next generation fits well with our aspirations for Microsoft YouthSpark.

    Throughout the day performers and speakers including musical artists Jennifer Hudson, Nelly Furtado, and MC Hammer; actors and activists Martin Sheen and Mia Farrow and a number of athletes, including Magic Johnson, Gary Payton, and Seattle Seahawks Coach Peter Carroll will share incredible stories and experiences with attendees.

    If that wasn’t enough, earlier today two surprise guests were announced; chart-topping local musical artist Macklemore and a special Skype visit from singer, actress and Free The Children ambassador Demi Lovato.

    It’s shaping up to be a memorable day.

    For those of you who can’t be here in person, we have a few ways to help you feel like you’re still part of the action. You can read more about We Day here, see pictures from the event and you can also stream the live webcast courtesy of Free The Children and Q13 Fox. And, of course, you can follow us on Twitter @msftcitizenship and #Youthspark.

    Meet Our YouthSpark Reporters

    Meet Gabrielle, Delaney, and Keilon, our YouthSpark reporters for We Day. With Windows Phone 8 devices and Surface tablets in hand, they’ll post their experiences through tweets and blog posts, sharing photos, videos and inspirational thoughts from their friends and fellow social activists throughout the day.

    Gabby Hall Name: Gabrielle, high school senior

    Twitter: @hall_gabrielle

    Earned an Invitation to We Day By: Volunteering with Kayla Ortiz and her organization Kayla's Corner to start book drives in the Seattle area in hopes of building a library in Uganda. This organization is starting locally but the mission is to take Kayla's Corner global.

    Most Excited to See: Jennifer Hudson

    Leadership & Community Service Highlights: Secretary for Washington State chapter of Future Business Leaders of America; President of Seattle chapter teens for Jack & Jill of America, Inc.; Microsoft DigiGirlz participant; job shadow at Seattle Storm; summer internship at D.C.-based Bread for the World

    Hobbies & Skills: Plays the flute

    Career Ambition: Lawyer focused on family law and women’s rights

    delaney Name: Delaney, high school junior

    Twitter: @DelaneyPhotog

    Earned an Invitation to We Day By: Participating in a canned food drive with 300 of her classmates. They collected more than 10,000 pounds of canned food!

    Most Excited to See: Jennifer Hudson and Martin Sheen


    Leadership & Community Service Highlights: Selected for People to People Student Ambassador Organization; President of the Photo Club and Journalism Club, and Vice President of Book Club; winner of National American Visions Award

    Hobbies & Skills: Photojournalism, creative photography

    Career Ambition: NBC journalist focused on writing, reporting, and photographing the world’s issues ranging from poverty and economic crises to wars and genocide

    keilon Name: Keilon, high school senior

    Twitter: @MyGuy_Keys

    Earned an Invitation to We Day By: His leadership and community activism such as teaching science to 6th graders

    Most Excited to See: Jennifer Hudson

    Leadership & Community Service Highlights: Student radio producer for KUOW 94.9 FM; Student representative at Washington State School Directors Association conference; Supervisor and Naturalist for his school’s Environmental Education program teaching nearly 500 5th and 6th graders to love science and nature

    Hobbies & Skills: Science, everything from biology to zoology to astronomy; plays piano, clarinet and violin; passionate about raising awareness for child homelessness

    Career Ambition: Teach astronomy or be a zoologist


    All the YouthSpark Reporters at the dress rehearsal yesterday at Key Arena.

  • New Paradigms for Empowering Youth

    By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

    This week I was thrilled to participate in a conversation at Microsoft’s Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, DC focused on ways the public and private sectors can work together to empower and inspire young people.

    As part of the @Microsoft conversation series focused on key policy and industry topics, I joined a panel focused on “New Paradigms for Empowering Youth.” Panelists included City Year DC Corps Member Ashante Branch, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Philanthropic Services Vice President Angela Jones Hackley, Palisades Media Ventures Chief Executive and “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give” author Ken Stern, College Success Foundation – DC Executive Director Herbert Tillery, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy Editor Stacy Palmer. The conversation explored best practices to help youth in DC and around the nation to realize their full potential and change their worlds.

    One of the most inspiring aspects of the conversation was the realization that there are so many young people eager to help others like themselves get a foothold in the world. I was particularly struck by the story of Ashante Branch, a City Year Corps Member, who recently graduated from college and is eager to show her appreciation for all those who helped her along the way. In her words, Ashante says she’s not in a position to “pay them back,” but she can certainly “give back” by helping other young people.

    “In my opinion, the most critical outcome of today’s conversation was furthering the discussion of what we as individuals can be doing for other individuals, especially our youth. I think providing for our youth is very important because they have to be responsible for their own future and we have to help them realize that their current situation isn’t their final situation.” – Ashante Branch, City Year Corps Member, Washington, DC

    3.21.13 - @ Microsoft Conversation on Philanthropy Photo

    Our world currently stands at a crossroads – we are witnessing a larger youth population than ever before; however, youth unemployment is double that of the adult population. Countries are struggling to produce modern workforces that have the skills required for economic success, yet at the same time there is a growing gap between the skills of unemployed workers and the skills needed to perform the jobs of today and the future. Too many young people face an opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to succeed and those who do not. Closing this opportunity divide is one of the most important actions we can all take – together – to secure the future of the next generation and as a result, the future of our global economy.

    The opportunity to bring people together to solve a common societal challenge was also a striking part of our panel conversation – not only the willingness, but the eagerness to pool resources, expertise, and networks to help our young people, as Ken Stern describes below, as well as the importance of holding ourselves “accountable” for real impact, in the words of Herb Tillery.

    “It always amazes me a little bit that people can be working so hard on the same issues in the same city and never have the time or the connectivity to sit down together and talk about these ideas and how we solve problems together. So it’s just great that Microsoft is bringing people together to talk about how to solve the issues that challenge this city and this country.” – Ken Stern, author of “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give”

    In September 2012, Microsoft launched YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative with a goal to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years through partnerships with governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses. We hope through these partnerships we are able to spark a dialogue similar to the one held this week and bring together a range of programs to help tackle the critical issues facing our workforce and economy.


    Following the event, Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center Staff had the opportunity to speak with the panelists.


    Herbert Tillery shares his perspective:




    We also talked with Angela Jones Hackley:




    Ken Stern also discussed why this topic is important:




    Finally, we spoke with City Year’s Ashante Branch regarding her response to today’s conversation:



  • We Day: Microsoft and the Youth Event of the Year

    By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Have you heard of We Day?

    We Day, an initiative of Free The Children, is a concert, a rally, and a celebration of a movement to inspire and encourage young people to serve their communities and work together to make the world a better place.


    We Day events have been taking place in Canada since 2007 and on March 27, 2013 the first ever We Day event in the United States will take place at Key Arena in Seattle. The lineup is impressive: musical artists Jennifer Hudson, Nelly Furtado, and MC Hammer; actors and activists Martin Sheen and Mia Farrow and a number of athletes, including Magic Johnson, Gary Payton, and Seattle Seahawks Coach Peter Carroll.

    Seattle Talent Mosaic

    The common thread between all of the special guests – whether they’re athletes, actors, singers, or public figures – is that they share a passion for igniting social change in their communities and around the world. And there’s a surprise talent yet to be announced.

    As a co-title sponsor of the event, we are thrilled to help bring the first We Day to the United States. We launched Microsoft YouthSpark in September 2012 to help young people discover new opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, and employment. The We Day movement, with its focus on inspiring the next generation fits well with the mission of Microsoft YouthSpark to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential.


    More than 350 schools in Washington State are participating in We Day, and 15,000 driven students who have launched community service projects both large and small will be invited to attend. We Day is sure to be an inspirational reward for thousands of young people in our region who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting the causes that they care about.

    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be on the main stage at We Day to share his thoughts on the unique opportunity that young people have to change the world. We’ll also have a YouthSpark Stage at the event where we’ll share the inspiring stories of young people in our region who volunteer for various community service efforts and, as a result, inspire their friends and families to engage in social good. We’ll also share observations and stories from our YouthSpark reporters who will be on-site all day capturing the stories of their schoolmates and friends’ involvement in this great cause.

    If you or someone you know is participating in We Day this year, let us know and share your story in the comments. We’re looking forward to seeing you there to celebrate young people who are sparking change in the world.

  • Making GOOD Even Better, Microsoft Launches Matching Campaign

    UPDATE - 2:00 p.m. PT, March 18: A big thank you to everyone who has participated in supporting our 20 inspiring nonprofits through the Give For Youth Challenge. Due to your unprecedented response, our $100,000 in matching funds were claimed within the first hour! We want to encourage you to continue to support these great projects so we’re providing an additional $100,000 to match your donations.

    The Give for Youth Challenge has reached its final stage and now it’s your turn. Working with GOOD, and thanks to nominations and voting by people across the United States we’ve found 20 inspiring nonprofits who will be featured on and eligible for $100,000 of matching funds from Microsoft.


    Give for Youth, a Microsoft YouthSpark program in partnership with GlobalGiving, is a global micro-giving marketplace focused specifically on raising funds for nonprofits that support youth causes around the world.

    From providing STEM education, to inspiring change-makers, to providing art and music programs in orphanages, each one of the winning organizations provide young people with an opportunity for a better and brighter future. You can make it even brighter.


    Photo courtesy Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund

    How can you help?

    • Double your impact! From March 18- March 27 (or until funds are exhausted), Microsoft will match donations to the micro-projects listed by our 20 winners on Give for Youth.
    • Spread the word. Help us welcome our new nonprofit partners to Give for Youth by encouraging your friends and family to support them. Follow #YouthSpark on Twitter to keep up-to-date with the challenge.

    Here’s a random sampling of some of the organizations that made it to the final round of the challenge:

    Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund

    Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund has two projects underway to help the youth of Cam Duc, Vietnam. The Fund works to offer art and music classes to poor children living in the area, including those at a local orphanage. The Fund’s goal is to provide the school’s music teacher, Tuan, with professional instruction as well as continue to provide art supplies and paper for their Dream of Art School and other community schools. Read more here on how the Fund plans to help youth living in poverty through art and creativity.

    The Center for Arab American Philanthropy

    Through their specific Teen Grantmaking Initiative (TGI), the Center for Arab American Philanthropy “teaches high school students about community issues, grantmaking, nonprofit management, communication and community leadership.” Through this program, TGI offers grants to student groups that support education and health initiatives. The youth in the TGI program fundraise in their own neighborhoods and also learn to make important decisions surrounding social issues in their communities. Learn more here about how TGI is helping youth serve their local areas.

    LIFE Humane Heroes Club

    An after-school program, Leaders in Furthering Education (LIFE) Humane Heroes Club teaches children about the role animals play in our lives. Their goal is “to create a generation of young people dedicated to the work of building more humane communities for animals and for all of us.” Through their after-school activities and curriculum, the organization educates children about the human-animal bond and advocates in their communities for animals in need. Learn more here about their successful humane education programs, and how they plan to further animal education for youths.

    Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund


    The Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) is hoping to improve low postsecondary education attendance rates in the Pacific Islands (PI). By raising funds to sponsor four PI students, the organization hopes they can empower these students to “engage in a dialogue with key stakeholders who shape higher education policies and programs.” As the only national scholarship nonprofit supporting PI students, APIASF hopes to support and empower the next generation of PI leaders; find out how they plan to do so here.

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