Microsoft YouthSpark Grants to Encourage Youth to Do Great Things

As part of a commitment to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world during the next three years, Microsoft announces support for five national U.S. nonprofits that focus on youth causes. Here’s a look at how these organizations are making a difference.

REDMOND, Wash. — As part of the launch of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft announced national partnerships with five major nonprofit organizations with missions to give youth the skills, education and job training they need to succeed: Boys & Girls Clubs of America, City Year, Junior Achievement USA (JA), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and Year Up.

On the surface, the nonprofit grants aim to bolster programs that help youth learn important 21st-century skills, find jobs and connect with caring adult mentors.

However, scratch beneath the surface, and there are thousands of stories of real young people who have been impacted by these programs, gotten off the streets, found their dream jobs or been inspired to further their education. These stories include teenage moms who have gained the skills to support their children, underperforming youth who understood math for the first time, young entrepreneurs who have created their own innovative businesses and many more.

As part of the YouthSpark announcement, the organizations shared their plans for how they will use the funding, as well as some real stories of challenge and success. Check out those stories below.

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About the image: Samantha Lewis, 22, San Francisco. Samantha Lewis was 22, pregnant and jobless when she learned about Year Up. There, she discovered she enjoyed working with technology and after completing her training, Year Up placed her in an internship at Wells Fargo. Eventually, she was hired as a full-time business consultant. Today Samantha and her family have moved out of the shelter and into a house. She’s taking night classes to further her career and credits Year Up with helping her get more out of life: “Now I’m thinking more about the future and how to make a life for my son.”

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About the image: Brian Hughes, 25, Bellevue, Wash. Growing up in housing projects and a home filled with alcoholism, Brian Hughes was a bright youth with no positive reinforcement. That all changed when he joined Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue in middle school. Over time, Brian became inspired to mentor youth in his community and introduce young people to the exciting world of technology. He is now the technology coordinator for his local Club. “We get the most up-to-date software from Microsoft,” Brian said, “which allows us to stay with current, cutting-edge technology that kids need to succeed in school and later in their career.”

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About the image: Travis Holloway, 22, Newton High School, New York. Through City Year, Travis Holloway served on the Microsoft-sponsored Diplomas Now team at Newtown High School in New York. There he used Microsoft tutorials and programs to help both students and teachers succeed. Through the program, Travis helped a special-education student named Anna-Maria to overcome some serious challenges. “Anna-Maria has grown so much since we started working together,” Travis said. “I have truly been humbled by her progress and tenacity, simply because, like me and many other students, all she needed was a push to be confident and independent.”

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About the image: Stephanie Foxworth, 19, Akron, Ohio. Stephanie Foxworth (left) learned to take care of herself at an early age. But making money for food and clothing made schoolwork difficult. At 16, those challenges multiplied with the birth of her son. “He gave me the motivation to finish high school and further my education,” Stephanie said. “I refused to fail him.” Stephanie attended an NFTE BizCamp and was inspired to create her own business, Elaborate Dips, producing and selling chocolate-covered apples. Her success has allowed her to earn a living while enrolled full time at the University of Akron. She hopes to become a news anchor someday.

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About the image: Megan Pilbeam, 18, Chicago. Megan Pilbeam’s (far left) involvement in the JA Company Program helped brighten not only her future, but also her past — her team contributed its profits to Harbor House, a domestic-violence shelter that provided Megan’s own family with counseling, clothing and food when they needed it most. In the end, the team donated $202.10 to the organization. Megan said, “Giving them the check was the most exhilarating moment in my life, and I can only thank Junior Achievement for allowing me to do so.”

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About the image: Orion Casey, 22, Chicago. Orion Casey grew up with limited access to education and career opportunities. With two children and little money, she moved in with her sister and brother-in-law. But everything changed when she got involved with Year Up. Year Up taught her professionalism, proper grammar and how to send business emails, then it placed her in a corporate internship at M. Block and Sons. After three months, the company offered her a long-term position as an IT support technician. Orion can now independently support her children and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

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About the image: Cristian Malpica, 17, Brighton, Colo. Cristian Malpica joined Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver initially because of court-ordered community service, but while there, he discovered new activities and a sense of belonging. Cristian developed his piano-playing skills and learned how to use digital software for music creation through the DJ Club and Club Tech. He also learned Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, which helped him achieve success with school projects. Through these positive experiences, Christian became more focused at school, and last spring he graduated with a 3.3 GPA. He is attending University of Northern Colorado this fall.

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About the image: Anthony Carmona, 17, Ozone Park, N.Y. Anthony Carmona knows computers. By fourth grade, he could disassemble and fix his brother’s PC. In the fifth grade, his principal asked him to assist the school’s computer technician and head up a team responsible for servicing the school’s hardware. Through an NFTE course, Anthony created a business that makes house calls for computer service. He provides free technology seminars and donates some of his proceeds to promote technology literacy. Now a senior at August Martin High School, Anthony won last year’s NFTE New York Metro Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

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About the image: Alex Richards, 23, Washington, D.C. City Year Corps member Alex Richards (left) works at Kramer Middle School in Anacostia, one of Washington, D.C.’s most impoverished neighborhoods, tutoring and mentoring sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in math. As challenging as this can be, Alex knows he’s making a difference. Alex will return to City Year for a second term and eventually plans to take advantage of City Year’s “give-a-year” Partnership, a program with more than 50 colleges and universities that offers scholarships to City Year alumni.

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About the image: Ryan Gomes and Marlin DaCruz, 16, Pawtucket, R.I. Cousins Ryan Gomes (left) and Marlin DaCruz joined Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket at ages 11and 7, respectively, and soon got involved in the digital literacy program, Club Tech, which helped them develop both technology and music skills. Recently Ryan and Marlin created The Hip Rock Workshop to educate youth about music, teaching other young people how to play instruments and use digital-recording software. The project won a $1,000 grant from Youth Venture. Ryan said, “Without my Club’s music program, I wouldn’t be in a performing arts school and would not be heading in the direction I am for college.”

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About the image: Tiffany Hill and Stephen Hall, 18, Birmingham, Ala. Tiffany Hill (third from left) and Stephen Hall (second from right) found themselves digging out of rubble after one of the deadliest tornados in the history of Alabama and even lost their homes. But the tornado couldn’t stop the high school seniors, who, with the help of the JA Company Program, pressed on to create their own advertising company. The team was later invited to participate in the JA National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Tiffany said, “It is very hard for me to put into words how wonderful my experience in Junior Achievement has been. It has been so cool to learn that I am smart enough to create a business on my own and watch it grow.”

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America assures success is within reach of every child who enters its doors, with its 4 million youth served annually on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. The organization is transforming the next generation of citizens, leaders and workers and will use Microsoft’s funding to create the Great Futures Challenge, inspiring teens to create projects that propose solutions to business or societal problems.
  • City Year unites teams of diverse young adults who serve full time in schools for 10 months to help struggling students succeed. Corps members work with students to improve student attendance, behavior and course performance. Using the funding, City Year will enhance its Math Capacity Partnerships and further invest in the Diplomas Now turnaround collaborative to build curriculum and intervention tools, and encourage academic success and higher graduation rates.
  • Year Up provides urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potentials. The high-support, high-expectation program combines marketing job skills, stipends, internships and college credit, which help to place these young adults on a viable path to self-sufficiency. Microsoft’s support will help the organization expand its operations in seven cities, projecting an increase in the number of students it serves by 20 percent in the first year.
  • NFTE inspires young people from low-income communities to stay in school through entrepreneurship curricula offered in middle and high schools. The collaboration with Microsoft will include continued sponsorship of The World Series of Innovation, in which students invent products or services to meet innovation challenges. It will also fund NFTE Math in Schools, a curriculum that helps students master math principles. Microsoft’s efforts will also support the Digital Classroom, which connects NFTE volunteers and classrooms across regions. Finally, the NFTE Next Generation Tech Challenge, a technology, entrepreneurship and mentorship program for at-risk high school students in New York, will also be supported by Microsoft.
  • JA is dedicated to educating students in grades K–12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. The partnership will support the JA Job Shadow program, which will bring students into Microsoft Retail Stores to learn firsthand about careers in the technology field.

These nonprofit organizations already change young people’s lives every day. Now, with support from Microsoft, they can do even more to address the challenges facing youth.

*Source: Microsoft

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