Microsoft’s Connected Learning Community Grants Enhance Programs at 35 Local Public and Nonprofit Organizations

REDMOND, Wash., July 3, 2000 — Emmanuel Hutchinson, a student at Tucson High School, gave up football to attend classes at the Tucson-Pima Arts Council’s Multimedia Arts Education Center, a component of the Council’s Arts Education Program. He found the environment safe — other kids didn’t try to intimidate him and teachers treated students like adults, with respect and trust. Since graduating from the program in May, he’s even returned to do a presentation using posters he created with Microsoft Greetings 2000 software. Thanks to the program, he’s also found a career path — Emmanuel wants to become a computer graphic designer.

The Multimedia Arts Education Center offers a tuition-free intensive computer mediated arts technology program for lower-income, middle school students who otherwise might not have access to this kind of technology. The rigorous 600-hour sequential learning program that takes place after school and during the summer covers language arts, computer graphics, computer animation, video production and the graduating students’ final portfolio of their best work created for a CD-ROM or Web site.

A $15,000 Microsoft Connected Learning Community (CLC) grant was used to provide computers, software and printers to the nine May graduates and six July graduates of this year’s program. In addition, Microsoft provided new software for the multimedia labs to help all of the students going through the program.

“The students left the May graduation literally with their arms full of software and equipment,”
said Dian Magie, executive director of the Tucson-Pima Arts Council.
“But it isn’t just students who benefit from the graduation gifts of computers and software; siblings and parents are also able to use the computers that go into these homes.”

Through its CLC grants, Microsoft seeks to enhance learning and communication in disadvantaged communities by expanding access to information technologies. The latest round of CLC grants provided $466,400 in cash and $3.85 million in software to 35 local non-profit and public organizations. Microsoft makes CLC grants to public and nonprofit organizations that connect people of all ages to learning resources. Cash and software donations are awarded twice each fiscal year (in December and May), and Microsoft employees volunteer their time throughout the year to projects supported by CLC funding.

“Amazing things happen when you give people the resources they need,”
said Bruce Brooks, Microsoft’s director of Community Affairs.
“Technology can enable people and organizations to do great things. Our role at Microsoft is to provide the tools and resources people need to achieve the goals that they’ve set for themselves.”

Microsoft’s regional field offices work with community-based nonprofit organizations to develop grant requests of up to $15,000 per project. Software contributions are often made in addition to financial support. CLC grants are initiated by Microsoft field offices and do not result from unsolicited proposals.

Now in its fourth year, the CLC program has allocated 145 grants in 27 states and Washington, D.C. Cumulatively, awards have totaled more than $1.9 million in cash contributions and $6.9 million in software.

Located in downtown Tucson, the Multimedia Arts Education Center is designed to keep participants in school, encourage their graduation and provide them with marketable skills in their community. Students learn to use arts technology tools to express their creativity, develop critical thinking skills and gain confidence in a respectful learning environment.

“I consider my challenge to be teaching the kids that writing is fun because it requires imagination,”
said Norah Booth, a language arts instructor at the center.
“Not all of our kids are successes in school, and when they can come here and be successful, it’s very helpful. When they finish, they end up with a computer — something they would not have been able to earn otherwise. That’s a real advantage going into high school. They see for themselves the connection between effort and reward.”

The Charlotte Symphony in Charlotte, N.C., received a CLC grant this year to support MusicaLinks . A partnership between the Charlotte Symphony and several local inner-city schools, MusicaLinks provides children with a curriculum-based, multi-week residency taught by musician educators and classroom teachers. Microsoft software will be used to illustrate abstract concepts that the students must grasp to apply what they learn. Funding from Microsoft goes towards compensating musicians and engaging outside evaluators.

“Currently, some teachers and musicians are already employing technology in the program, but the grant from Microsoft will allow us to more fully embed it as a tool for instruction, assessment and documentation,”
said Susan Miville, director of education for the Charlotte Symphony.

Teachers and musicians involved in MusicaLinks use music to teach math and literacy by focusing on the mathematical/musical concepts of patterns, fractions and ratios, and the literacy/musical elements of character development, conflict and resolution.

“Children love to use computers and the potential for using them as an interactive learning tool is tremendous, offering opportunities for students to write stories and poems and generate computer illustrations, to graph melodies and design patterns along with creating soundscapes,”
Miville said.
“All of this enhances and reinforces the musical and curricular concepts the students are learning as well as teaching them computer skills.”

According to Anita Strauss-LaRowe, director of development for the Charlotte Symphony,
“The software, of course, is worth its weight in gold for some of these schools that do not have active PTAs, and they don’t have the resources. They just thought Christmas had come in June when they got big boxes of software from us.”

Created in 1983, the Microsoft Giving Program is one of the first philanthropic efforts in the high-tech industry. The company’s worldwide charitable efforts are aimed at increasing access to technology for disadvantaged communities and supporting community organizations that focus on education, human services, civic development, the arts and the environment. The company encourages employees to give to charity by matching, dollar-for-dollar, employee charitable contributions up to $12,000 per employee annually. More than 20,000 Microsoft employees participate in the program.

“You’ve got to have multiple strategies to tackle a problem like access to technology. So giving ends up being a combination of time, talent and treasure,”
Brooks said.

Strauss-LaRowe agrees, describing a partnership with Microsoft’s field office in Charlotte that touches every aspect of what the Charlotte Symphony does.
“We were literally on 3×5 cards before we met up with our Microsoft friends. They supplied us with software, they trained us on Microsoft Office and email, and there’s a team of volunteers that we call our guardian angels who come and maintain our server. This relationship continues — they help us with everything we need to keep our systems running. They’ve been here at one o’clock in the morning at times. They are incredibly dedicated.”

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