REDMOND, Wash., September 6, 2000 — Imagine a community-based technology center that opens at 9 a.m. for young mothers who want to learn how to use a computer or make purchases on the Internet. By mid-afternoon, young students start coming in to do their homework or explore the Internet. Later, high school and college students drift in to work on research papers. In the evening, working parents come in for computer classes on Internet usage. According to Ron Blackburn-Moreno, director of the ASPIRA Association, the only national nonprofit organization devoted solely to the education and leadership development of Puerto Rican and other Latino youth, this happens six days a week at a Community Technology Center (CTC) in Philadelphia — a center that serves about 1,000 people every week.
The CTC in Philadelphia is one of 22 that ASPIRA operates with PowerUP, a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people acquire the skills, experiences and resources they need to succeed in the digital age. The centers are designed to provide technology, education, cultural and career resources to economically disadvantaged Latino communities.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helped resettle Bosnian refugees Adisa and Muharem Gas and their family in Palm Desert, Calif., where they recently purchased their own home.
This year, ASPIRA received a Microsoft Technology Leadership Grant of $1.7 million in software for its CTCs and its own internal operations. Since 1997, Microsoft’s Technology Leadership Grant program has made substantial software donations to large national nonprofit organizations like ASPIRA, to enhance communications and organizational efficiency, use of the Internet and the delivery of services to constituents. Eight other national nonprofit organizations received grants this year, totaling more than $7 million. Since its inception in 1997, the program has contributed $25.1 million to 29 national nonprofits.
By the end of this year, Blackburn-Moreno estimates that ASPIRA will be operating 40 CTCs across the country, and the organization’s goal is to have 100 centers up and running by the end of 2001.
“For our own economic development and for access to information and a full life, technology is critical,” said Blackburn-Moreno, who cited a November 1999 U.S. Department of Commerce report that showed while Hispanic households are far more likely to own computers and have Internet access than they were in 1998, they still lag behind the national average in access to new technologies. “Microsoft’s Technology Leadership Grant is a perfect complement to what we’re trying to do and it came at a perfect time, when we are expanding the number of our centers. It allows us to provide access to state-of-the-art software like Microsoft’s Encarta and the Scholastic Magic School Bus series — it’s a tremendous boost to the curriculum we offer our younger kids.”
According to Jane Meseck Yeager, Microsoft community affairs program manager, the Technology Leadership Grant program is one component of Microsoft’s mission to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities and to bring the benefits of technology to those who traditionally have had limited access to technology. Microsoft has taken a leadership role in helping nonprofit organizations and their constituents take advantage of the power of technology by supporting technology assistance that helps nonprofits deliver their services and by providing them with software solutions.
Meseck Yeager praised the quality of applicants in this round of grant allocations: “There is a real understanding among nonprofits of how to use technology for strategic advantage. The word is getting out that it’s a critical component of their business, and that they need to invest in this infrastructure to improve their services and to succeed at their mission.”
Grant Helps IRC Provide Sanctuary and Lifesaving Assistance
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) received a Microsoft Technology Leadership grant worth almost $319,000 in software to develop a case-management database and to upgrade its internal computer network to Windows 2000. The IRC, founded at the suggestion of Albert Einstein to assist opponents of Hitler, helps people fleeing racial, religious and ethnic persecution, as well as those uprooted by war and violence.
At the outbreak of an emergency, the IRC provides sanctuary and lifesaving assistance, rapidly delivering critical medical and public-health services, shelter and food. Once a crisis stabilizes, the IRC sets up programs to enable refugees to cope with life in exile. Through training, education and income-generating programs, the IRC helps refugees acquire new skills to become self-sufficient. The IRC also assists in the resettlement of those refugees who cannot safely return to their countries and who qualify for entry into the United States. Its national network of 19 regional offices ensures that new arrivals have all they need to start rebuilding their lives.
According to Robert Carey, an IRC vice president, the Microsoft grant will enable the organization to accelerate a database project it has been trying to implement for a number of years. “Basically, the grant will allow all of the offices around the country to have a shared database and eliminate the duplication of effort that’s going on right now,” Carey said. “The ability to generate profile data on our clients will enable us to better target our services to the areas where there is the greatest need. Once that information is in a database, it’s obviously much more accessible, and it allows us to put our resources where they’re going to be the most effective.”
“The Microsoft Technology Leadership Grants will provide organizations like the International Rescue Committee and ASPIRA with some of the tools and resources they need to improve their organizational effectiveness and to enhance the delivery of their services,” said Bruce Brooks, director of community affairs at Microsoft.
IRC’s Carey agrees. “The bottom line is that this grant is going to help us better serve refugees, and ultimately help them create new lives and become productive members of their communities,” he said.