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By Yvonne Thomas, senior program manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
Last week at our Redmond headquarters, we were honored to host more than 50 representatives from youth-focused organizations from around the world that we partner with as part of Microsoft YouthSpark.
Our intent over the two-day YouthSpark Summit was to bring together our global and local partners, and the youth they serve, to highlight success stories and impact, and determine how we can work together do even more and deepen our collective impact for youth.
What we saw and heard was inspiring.
We heard from four outstanding youth about how the programs they participated in – Year Up, UK Apprenticeship Program, Microsoft Students to Business South Africa and the Anudip Foundation – impacted their lives and continue to successfully train and place youth in existing, unfilled, high quality technology sector jobs in their communities. One of the youth attendees, Joshua Uwadiae, who participated in the Microsoft UK Apprenticeship Program, noted that the biggest deception among youth is the discouragement of the dream. He cited that “through YouthSpark, Microsoft is working not just locally, but globally, to meet a common problem throughout the world: how can we get youth to believe in themselves, to believe in their future and to get them a great career.”
We heard similar points of view from places as different as New Zealand (High Tech Youth Network), France (Les Compagnons du Dev), Costa Rica (Microsoft Student Partner program) and the U.S. (TEALS) that providing opportunities for youth to learn computer science and coding might be the most important thing we do for their futures regardless of the career path they choose.
We also heard from youth who participated in programs such as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (U.S), Professional Development Foundation (Egypt), Fondazione Mondo Digitale (Italy), and Youth Business China (China) that embrace the idea that young people can and should be job creators, as much as job consumers.
Throughout the time together, the clear theme was that tremendous opportunity lies ahead – and together we can accomplish much more than we can do alone. We brainstormed new creative ideas to evangelize the solutions across our organizations and programs that impact young people. We also reminded each other of opportunities for collaboration and ways to continue to learn from one another.
The thoughts shared by the young people in attendance resonated with all of us. They urged us to continue to ensure we are connected to the people we are serving, that we “walk in their shoes” when thinking about our work, and that we ensure meaningful youth involvement in all aspects of decision making from how programs are designed to how policy is developed. They urged us to think about how we can increase the number of youth served by Microsoft YouthSpark, how we can even better connect everyone to valuable resources, and how we can help ensure youth understand that YouthSpark is a vehicle for bringing out what already exists in them – creativity, imagination, and the desire to do more.
One young person reminded us that issues facing youth are big and that big change takes time. He urged us to not give up!
Join us today in deepening the impact for youth by visiting www.microsoft.com/youthspark to learn more about how you can connect youth to tools and resources that will help them find opportunity today.