HOUSTON, Texas, May 30, 2000 — Microsoft Corp., working closely with the Greater Houston Area Red Cross and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in a joint project known as “A Class Act,” recently helped provide school supplies for children in foreign countries ravaged by war or natural disasters. The supplies were sent in “school chests,” cartons filled with typical school supplies such as pencils, rulers, chalk, erasers, crayons, paper, and even soccer balls and jump ropes. Students from Houston-area elementary and middle schools gathered the supplies and filled the chests.
“The school chest program is a national program that has evolved over 80 years within the Red Cross. Now, with the backing of Microsoft and HISD, it has become a more important and meaningful initiative,” said Margaret O’Brien-Molina, deputy director of marketing and communications at the American Red Cross. “We got the entire district involved, which is remarkable — usually it’s one Girl Scout troop, or one school trying to put something together. With our collaborative efforts, we were able to run the program on a much larger scale and collect more than 60 chests.”
Microsoft provided technical expertise and coordinated efforts between HISD and other participants in the program, including United Parcel Service (UPS), which donated the international shipping cartons, and Southwest Airlines and Continental Airlines, which flew the school chests to the staging area in Baltimore. The chests assembled by participants of “A Class Act” are on their way to Venezuela, courtesy of the Red Cross, and will arrive at their destination in a few weeks. Other countries currently in need include: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Bulgaria.
“We are thrilled to be able to work with the American Red Cross and with Houston-area schools on such a worthwhile and important project,” said Lisa Wilmore, a field marketing specialist at Microsoft, who worked on
“A Class Act”
with Red Cross workers and HISD schools.
“A Class Act” was launched at The Rice School, a magnet school for technology and Spanish. Lower-income schools were able to participate, too, with Office Depot offering vouchers that could be exchanged for school supplies.
In addition to filling the chests, students learned about countries where significant problems have developed due to disasters. Teachers and students had an Internet-based curriculum that examined the geography, society, climate and customs of each country, and they learned about earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, famine and war. Students communicated electronically and by U.S. mail with Red Cross delegates on assignment in the countries they studied. To support these educational efforts, Microsoft donated Encarta 2000 Reference suite software to each of the approximately 50 participating schools that helped fill the chests.
“Microsoft helped us connect with an entire school district rather than dealing with individual schools,” O’Brien-Molina said. “Teachers could submit questions, download the curriculum from the Internet or enroll in the project online. Without that boost of technical input from Microsoft, their generous contributions and their willingness to work with us, I don’t know that we would have been so successful.”