June, 2013

  • “To a better life” with $1,000

    By: Jane Meseck, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft

    It’s been ten years, and the view doesn’t look that much different. Domineisha, a 24-year-old former high school dropout now headed to college and with an impressive internship offer at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, can’t see the path over the opportunity divide.

    “I had to turn down the internship,” she says quietly, adjusting her bright orange apron in between customers at the cash register of Home Depot. Like many low-income youth, she lives with her family with its own financial struggles. Her single mother is struggling to find work, and her sister, age 19, is a single mom of a toddler who also lives under the same roof. They all depend on Domineisha’s income. She couldn’t give up a weekly paycheck to participate in a 5-week internship that only pays a small stipend at the end of the program.


    Domineisha, 24, is a Los Angeles youth who just finished a decade-long journey to obtain her high school degree, and is headed to college in the fall.

    We met Domineisha through LA Conservation Corps, a 27-year-old local nonprofit that helps inner-city LA youth like Domineisha gain on-the-job training and paid work experience. She came to the program on a friend’s recommendation.

    “My first day there, we had to restore an alley. It was the kind of alley where the LAPD had to come and remove the people living in the alley just so we could clean it,” Domineisha balks a little, then laughs. “It was a good experience.”

    Domineisha is like many youth on the other side of the opportunity divide who lack the resources and the help they need to pursue opportunities to improve their lives. This is why Microsoft created Give for Youth, an online micro-giving portal in partnership with GlobalGiving, designed for anyone to help fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world. Nonprofits such as LA Conservation Corps can upload youth stories and projects, so that you can discover stories like Domineisha’s. Today, you can help Domineisha by donating to a $1,000 fund, the equivalent of her cashier income for the period of the five week internship -- the only barrier that prevents her from taking this life-changing opportunity.

    Starting today until June 18, we are also increasing your ability to make an impact. We’re giving away $150,000 in matching funds, at a 50% match to every dollar. You can see all the eligible microprojects here and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to empower 300 million young people around the world by providing opportunities in education, employment and entrepreneurship, through Microsoft YouthSpark.

    We asked Domineisha where the road was headed for her, if she was able to complete the internship and college. She wants to earn enough money so that her family can move. Right now they live in South Central LA. “It has its moments,” she says. “But I’d move us somewhere better, safer. To a better life."

  • Good Read: Why STEM Education & Blended Learning Matter

    By Kristin Lee, Microsoft Senior Public Relations Manager

    Our friends at the Microsoft on the Issues blog are featuring a post about the most recent event from the @Microsoft series focused on education. In Washington, D.C., the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center hosted a panel on “Preparing the Next Generation for 21st Century Jobs: Why STEM Education & Blended Learning Matter.”


    The lively and robust conversation examined what types of STEM skills 21st century jobs require and explored critical design elements of successful and innovative education programs.

    The discussion focused on how education innovators can design responsive, engaging and academically rigorous programs to prepare students to meet the STEM workforce demands of the 21st century. This event also followed our recent announcement of Microsoft’s $1 million, three-year grant to support the CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellowship.

    Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN-4) and Bill Kamela, Senior Director of Education and Workforce, Microsoft kicked off the event, which also featured Katherine Bradley, President, CityBridge Foundation; Ed Dieterle, Ed. D., Senior Program Officer for Research, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Jonathan Rothwell, Senior Research Associate and Associate Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program Brookings Institution, and Dr. Linda Rosen, Chief Executive Officer, Change the Equation. 

    You can follow the conversation at @MicrosoftIPC and @MSFTissues on Twitter.

  • Challenge for Change: Meet 20 Finalists and Vote for Your Favorite

    By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft YouthSpark

    After reviewing hundreds of inspiring entries, our judging panel for the YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest has finished the tough job of selecting 20 finalists. Each of the 20 finalists created a video sharing more about themselves and their projects.

    Now we’re putting the power back in your hands. Starting today through June 24, you can vote once a day for the project that inspires you the most to help send five deserving youth on a volunteer trip in Kenya this summer. Watch the videos and cast your vote today!

    “Volunteering in Kenya would allow me to learn more about the communities I aim to help,” contestant Megan Shea shares. “I hope this will add a level of credibility to my program by proving that any student with an idea and imagination can work to fight global issues.”

    The 20 Finalists

    Many of the finalists believe in the power of education. As finalist Zach Lax put it, “Access to quality education is the cornerstone of every other social issue.” 

    • Zach Lax (Ringoes, New Jersey), a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, aims to expand his Teaching Is Power platform to develop a teacher training curriculum.
    • Odunola Ojewumi (Beltsville, Maryland) dreams of providing women in sub-Saharan Africa with access to education through her nonprofit Project ASCEND.
    • Brian Hickey (Loudonville, New York) founded Engeye Teen Connection to support education in Uganda and hopes to build an Education, Business and Training Center to offer technology training.

    From left to right: Zach Lax, Odunola Ojewumi, Brian Hickey.

    Others focus on inspiring young people, especially girls, to pursue STEM education. “As an engineering student in college,” finalist Jaleesa Trapp shared, “there weren’t many people who looked like me in my classes.”

    • Jaleesa Trapp (Tacoma, WA) plans to launch Girls’ Day, a program dedicated to introducing girls to the possibility of a STEM career.
    • Ximena Prugue (Miami, FL) wants to build a mentorship program encouraging minority girls to pursue STEM careers.
    • Temiloluwa Adeniyi (Cincinnati, Ohio) plans to create a multimedia story of a woman in STEM that can be shared with local schools to enable children to envision their futures.
    • Meghan Shea (West Chester, Pennsylvania) developed her Minds (to) Matter program to foster students’ love of scientific research.
    • Karen Mok (San Francisco, California) strives to close the digital gender gap with a pilot program focused on Roma communities in Greece and Macedonia.
    • Misikir Mentose (La Mesa, California) founded StartingX to organize and curate technology self-learning courses for youth.

      From left to right: Jaleesa Trapp, Ximena Prugue, Temiloluwa Adeniyi.

      From left to right: Meghan Shea, Karen Mok, Misikir Mentose.

      Two of our finalists aim to empower youth by combining art and design with technology.

      • De Andrea Nichols (Memphis, Tennessee) founded Design Serves to help organizations, individuals and communities use graphic design methodology to address social challenges.
      • Claire Mongeau (Somerville, Massachusetts) dreams of building a Computer Creativity Lab in Hyderabad, India to teach digital art techniques to disadvantaged students.


      From left to right: De Andrea Nichols, Claire Mongeau.

      It’s also clear that our finalists believe wholeheartedly in their own generation’s ability and promise to make the world a better place. Finalist Jessica Lynn Lane stated, “Today, more than ever, we need to inspire and empower rising generations to make a positive change.”

      • Jessica Lynn Lane (Pullman, Washington) aims to teach leadership development to high school students through her Project I/E.
      • Adam Dunn (Apex, North Carolina) co-founded Triangle Youth Leadership Services to create workshops for high school students to develop solutions to community issues.
      • Christina Ong (Sacramento, California) cares deeply about creating a global peace curriculum that can inspire youth to improve their communities.
      • Sneha Jayaprakash (Fremont, California) hopes to inspire people to do good deeds through a reality-based mobile game.

      From left to right: Jessica Lynn Lane, Adam Dunn.


      From left to right: Christina Ong, Sneha Jayaprakash.

      Several projects focus on the health care sector. “Factors such as distance, money and connections should never be a hindrance,” explained contestant Gin Cheng. “Everyone deserves to live a healthy life.”

      • Gin Cheng (Brooklyn, New York) developed a concept for a mobile app that improves accessibility to health care in impoverished communities.
      • Audrey Scagnelli (Washington D.C.) launched College & Cook, a magazine for college-students dedicated to global food security.
      • Bryan Ngo (Newport Beach, California) founded the Red Beanie Society to promote education and advocacy for adolescents and young adults with cancer.
      • Swetha Pasala (Herndon, Virginia) created MEDScheme, a medical equipment donation concept that ensures impoverished communities have the devices they sorely need.
      • Morgan Brand (Washington D.C.) designed the 100 Hours of Action program to combat childhood obesity.

        From left to right: Gin Cheng, Audrey Scagnelli, Bryan Ngo.


        From left to right: Swetha Pasala, Morgan Brand.

        We’ll announce the winners in the first week of July, so check back then to see if your favorite project won.

      • Steve Ballmer honored as a top 100 “STEM CEO”

        By Karen Bergin, Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs

        A new list of the top 100 “STEM CEOs” includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The list was published by STEMconnector, which helps its members design, implement and measure STEM strategies, and presented today as part of the 2013 U.S. News STEM Solutions summit.

        According to a Washington STEM news release: “Washington state ranks number one in the nation in the concentration of STEM jobs due to inspiring business leaders like Steve Ballmer,” said Patrick D’Amelio, CEO of Washington STEM. “The time is now to invest in STEM education and ensure our students have a strong foundation in these fields which are critical to our state’s economic prosperity.”


        The news release also notes that the list profiles CEOs who actively advance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education with this quote from Ballmer: “Inspiring a passion for STEM is one of the most important things we can do to help young people make an impact in the world.”

        Microsoft is engaged in a variety of activities to promote STEM education, including last year’s launch of YouthSpark, an initiative to connect millions of youth with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship in STEM fields and beyond. Click to learn more about Microsoft YouthSpark.

      • YouthSpark Challenge for Change Generates Hundreds of Inspirational Social Good Project Entries!

        By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft YouthSpark

        In May, Microsoft launched YouthSpark Challenge for Change. We asked young people aged 18-25 to share a social cause they care about and come up with an idea to address it using Windows and Office for a chance to win a volunteer trip to Kenya this summer. While changing the world can be a daunting task, hundreds of young adults from around the country rose to the challenge.

        The submissions we received address a wide range of social issues such as technology literacy, bullying, cancer awareness, public health and nutrition, education and tutoring, clean water solutions, climate change, art and music therapy, and STEM education. We discovered that many people have already established their own nonprofit organizations and are seeking additional support and resources to boost their projects to the next level. Thank you to everyone who entered, and don’t forget to use your $25 gift card for Give for Youth.

        So what happens next?

        The YouthSpark Challenge for Change judging panel is reviewing all the entries and will select 20 finalists who will each make a short video explaining their project ideas. We’ll reveal the finalists on June 17 and turn the final round of judging over to you to select our five grand prize winners. Each finalist will receive a Microsoft Surface RT with Windows RT and Office Home and Student 2013 RT (perfect for making their videos!). Anyone can vote for his or her favorite project and video once a day through June 24. The five grand prize winners will receive an all-expenses paid volunteer trip to Kenya in August 2013, $2,500 cash to help kick-start their ideas, a Microsoft technology bundle including a Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360 with Kinect, and the opportunity to serve as a YouthSpark ambassador for the year and take advantage of YouthSpark training and resources.

        As they review submissions, our judges are looking for entries that are creative, can be implemented, and have the potential to create a positive impact on a real social issue. They’ll also evaluate how the entries propose to use Windows and Office. We would like to introduce you to them:

        liz Liz Maw is chief executive officer of Net Impact, where she focuses on fostering the development of next generation sustainability leaders. During her tenure, Net Impact has more than tripled in size, formed partnerships with more than 50 global corporations, grown its chapter network to more than 300, and launched new research and projects on campus greening, curriculum change, and workplace sustainability. The World Economic Forum recognized Liz as a Young Global Leader in 2010, and Ethisphere named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics in 2011. Follow @LizMaw for her updates on Net Impact.

        “Net Impact and Microsoft YouthSpark share the same vision – to empower the next generation to create a better future for themselves, their communities, and the world,” said Liz Maw, CEO of Net Impact. “I’m inspired by all the powerful entries in YouthSpark Challenge for Change and their potential to make a real difference. Choosing 20 finalists out of this group will not be an easy task.”

        max Max Schorr is co-founder and chief community officer of GOOD, which began as part of a generational impulse to create positive change in the world and now reaches more than 4 million people each month through various communication channels. Schorr recently helped develop GOOD/Corps, an initiative to help businesses align their success with social impact. Follow @MaxSchorr for his thoughts on GOOD and GOOD/Corps.
        romanus Romanus Berg is chief information officer of Ashoka and serves as a member of the organization’s Leadership Group. He currently serves on the board of NetHope, which works to share social solutions across citizen, government, and private sectors. Follow @RomanusBerg for his thoughts on Ashoka, NetHope, and social entrepreneurship.

        In addition to Max, Liz, and Romanus, the YouthSpark Challenge for Change judging panel includes three Microsoft employees (left to right): Jay Victor, director of brand strategy for Office and Windows, Leonardo Ortiz-Villacorta, director of field engagement for Citizenship & Public Affairs, and Rachel Abbot, product manager of global campaigns for Windows.

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