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4‑H and Microsoft grow Tech Changemakers

by Denise Phelps
February 27, 2018 10:31 AM

Today, True Leaders are making a change in their communities through innovation and leadership, and thanks to the partnership between 4‑H and Microsoft, youth can lead positive change in a digital-driven world.

Through the 4‑H Tech Changemakers initiative, Microsoft is equipping young people with the knowledge, resources, and empowerment to lead in their communities through technology.

Meet a few of the Tech Changemakers:

Quincy, Washington

tech, stem, microsoft, changemakers, digital, technologyThe 4‑H club in Quincy, Washington has been gathering data from their peers, parents, teachers and community members to help them determine how they want to pursue digital skills training in their communities.

After compiling the data from over 50 in-person interviews, they discovered a communication gap between students and parents.

“A lot of parents don’t realize what students do every day at school, there’s a disconnect,” said Daisy, a Tech Changemaker.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The school has an online portal where parents can see how students are doing in each class, monitor if they turned in homework or see if they were absent, but many parents are unable to access the portal. During their interviews, the youth have found many reasons that contribute to this disconnect, from language barriers to lack of internet access.

In January, the team met with community leaders to help determine how best to tackle this problem. With lots of enthusiasm, a team member named Elena remarked, “I’m excited to work with other people in our community to solve this problem, but I’m also really worried about actually executing it!”

Machias, Maine

tech, stem, microsoft, changemakers, digital, technologyTech Changemakers Paige and Inez have known for months that they want to tackle one of Washington County, Maine’s most significant problems: food insecurity. They hope to use tech and coding to create a website or a digital map that will connect people to healthy and affordable local food. But they won’t be able to do it alone: The first step in their journey is to recruit other passionate young people to help lead their project.

When Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week) arrived in December, they were eager to volunteer to run two events in their community. What they weren’t expecting is that CS Ed Week would turn out to be their best recruiting tool!

Paige recalled one peer saying, “I want to sign up for 4‑H if this is what you guys do, this is awesome!“

In addition to introducing over 30 kids to coding, they recruited three additional students interested in becoming part of the core planning team.

Inez said, “The coolest part was that people were so interested in coding they became more interested in our project– because they got a taste of what we can do!”

Mecklenburg, Virginia

tech, stem, microsoft, changemakers, digital, technologyVirginia 4‑H’ers Mackenzie and Kaitlyn are working to bring youth in their community together through technology. The problem: The consolidation of two schools in their county has caused tension in the community. 4‑H’ers are leading the way by developing a program that focuses on developing leadership, citizenship and communication skills in teens that hopefully leads to increased civic engagement that can help bring kids together.

Currently, they plan on sponsoring a game design challenge that will bring youth together and expose them to a variety of fun technology and computer science activities. They hope to launch afterschool workshops in the spring and day camps in the summer. So far, they’ve received lots of positive feedback from members of their community.

“People were on the same page as us; it was nice to know we were going in the right direction with our project!” Mackenzie said.

This ambitious project is new territory for many of the youth leaders.

“I’m excited because it’s a new topic for me. A lot of what we do here is livestock, and I think it’s really important to try something new and different. I’m just hoping I can catch up (to the kids in TEALS),” said Mackenzie.

The group already has activities planned for the new year to help them get prepared.  They are working on a recruitment strategy for high school mentors, a leadership training retreat and a meeting with a professor at Virginia Tech to learn about developing CS games for kids.

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