Tag Archives: Causes & Community

Digital Love Letters from children to parents who are incarcerated

Before I came to Google, I spent long hours in women’s prisons as human rights lawyer. Most women behind bars are mothers to minors, serving sentences for first time non-violent crimes. Mothers shared with me, in hushed voices, their suffering. I tried to document the abuses committed against them, shackling them during childbirth to sexual abuse by prison guards. I’m still haunted by memories of very small children not being allowed to touch or kiss or hug their mothers during visits; by the little girl who told me she never knew the warmth of waking up to her mother next to her.


That’s why the chance to set up the Love Letters project at Google is so special to me. Two years ago, I reached out to the community organizations I knew working with children of incarcerated parents. We partnered together to create Love Letters: digital love letters from children to their incarcerated parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, a project we’re continuing this year.

Our commitment to justice reform has expanded in the past two years. In addition to our philanthropy, just this past week we banned bail bond ads from Search because of their predatory effect on vulnerable communities. Love Letters is yet another way we’re using our different platforms to disrupt the human costs of mass incarceration.


This Mother’s Day, let’s remember those mothers behind bars and the children left behind, and bear witness to the suffering that happens when we overcriminalize communities. These love letters are a testament to the unbroken bonds that endure between mothers and their children. While incarceration deeply traumatizes families, love still scales the prison walls.

Rolling Study Halls: turning bus time into learning time

I grew up as an “Army Brat,” a name for kids with a parent in the military who are often on the move. As my mom sums it up, my family spent 18 years on the road in over a dozen cities, 20 different houses, three elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools—with one tropical fish and one surprise visit from a python in Monterey, CA. Throughout all these travels—meeting people from all different backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities—the highlight was always the excitement of going to a new school. School remains a fixture in my life all these years later.


I’m still a road warrior, traveling across America’s highways and byways for work. On these trips, I see firsthand the growing gap between children living in poverty and those who come from more comfortable circumstances. I meet students who live in remote or rural areas and endure long bus rides to and from school—in some places up to 90 minutes each way. In these areas, like so many others across the country, a lot of students don’t have access to connectivity or devices at home, but they often have schoolwork that requires it. All of this I observe through the lens of technology and its potential to improve lives. Not only does tech enable me to stay connected while I’m on the go, but we live during a time where even astronauts can have Wi-Fi on their space stations. Why couldn’t our students have access to it on their bus rides home?


So in 2016, in partnership with local education leaders in Caldwell County, NC (near our Lenoir Data Center), and some Googler volunteers, we helped install Wi-Fi on 11 school buses in the district. We also worked with the Education Foundation of Caldwell County to make sure there were educators who could accompany students on these Wi-Fi-equipped buses to provide support and help out with assignments. Because bridging the “digital divide” isn’t just about providing access and devices—it’s also about using that technology effectively.

Lilyn Hester speaks at Rolling Study Hall pilot launch in 2016
Lilyn Hester speaking at the Rolling Study Hall pilot launch in 2016

The effects were immediate—almost too immediate for some bus drivers who were shocked (and a little confused) when their commutes became so quiet. Students were engaged. They were learning. And after a few months, there were more real results: School officials saw students do better in school. It was working.


After the success of the pilot, we brought it to another school district—Berkeley County, SC—targeting Lowcountry communities near St. Stephen and Alvin, areas where many students don’t have access at home. We worked with the College of Charleston to do research on the impact of this program and say that after one year, students were significantly more likely to be digitally literate and 80 percent of teacher participants said they were more likely to bring digital lessons into their classroom activities. They also saw homework completion go up, discipline rates go down, and a dramatic increase in overall student engagement.


Because of promising data like this, we’re expanding Rolling Study Halls across the country, starting today in Deer Trail School District in Colorado. As a part of our Grow with Google initiative, Rolling Study Halls will help students across the country access the tools and digital skills they’ll need to be prepared for tomorrow’s workforce.

We’re working with community leaders to outfit buses in 16 additional school districts in partnership with school networking nonprofit CoSN and broadband expert Kajeet. Together we hope to maximize access to learning time outside of school hours, with a goal of reclaiming more than 1.5 million hours for thousands of students by the end of this school year. School districts will be able determine policies to limit access to schoolwork only. Students will also have the chance to work collaboratively—alongside an onboard educator—to complete their assignments.

Introducing Rolling Study Halls

When we first started this program, I wanted to open up opportunities for students in need, and knock down barriers—like lack of access to internet at home—that stood in their way. To see an idea that I started in my own backyard go nationwide is humbling, but we never do it alone. Our program builds on the hard work and dedication of so many teachers, parents, school officials and nonprofit organizations who are making it all possible. And together, we can give these kids access to the learning opportunities they deserve.

Zendaya and Google.org help a community school bloom

In 2015, Roses in Concrete Community School opened in East Oakland, California. With a name inspired by a book of poetry written by Tupac Shakur, the school aims to create a model for urban education that prioritizes the needs of youth and families in the community it serves. It’s founder, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, believes education is the way to help young people understand that they can transform not only their community, but the world. By creating the conditions for our youngest change-makers to flourish, this education model can be a pathway to building healthy and sustainable communities across the U.S.

In the school’s first year, Google.org provided $750,000 to help launch its unique vision. And last Friday at Google’s San Francisco community space, teachers, students, artists, education advocates, Googlers and Oakland-native actress Zendaya celebrated the announcement of our additional $650,000 grant to help the school build a first-of-its-kind computer science (CS) curriculum, which will serve as a model for other schools across the U.S. The curriculum will be culturally and community relevant, building on Duncan-Andrade’s philosophy that education shouldn’t push students out of communities, but should instead help students transform them.

Research shows that Black and Latino students are interested in learning CS, but are underrepresented in the field due to limited access to learning opportunities, coupled with the lack of relatable role models. Through this new program, Roses in Concrete helps students see the connection between CS and their communities, and hopes to equip them with the skills they need to solve real problems, starting in their own neighborhood.

The purpose of education is not to escape poverty, but to end it. Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade
Founder of Roses in Concrete Community School

During the evening’s events, Roses students shared dance, art, and poetry performances for the crowd, which included Zendaya, an avid supporter of the school. Growing up in Oakland as the daughter of two teachers, she has fond memories of spending time in the same classrooms that now make up the Roses in Concrete campus, and credits pretending to grade papers as some of her earliest acting experience. During a student-led interview, Zendaya shared her appreciation for organizations like this progressive community school that are thoughtfully closing equity divides in her hometown. She encouraged the students to “Always lead with your heart and chase the happiness that fuels you,” and reminded them that technology is one possible medium for them to express themselves and make a positive difference.

As a lab school, Roses in Concrete will share this new curriculum with national school leaders, policy makers and researchers. And alongside Roses, we can identify more ways to provide meaningful CS experiences to students of color, and by doing so, provide pathways for them to grow, thrive, and create change—in their own communities, and around the world.

Source: Education


The #MyFutureMe winner is often the only girl—but she’s going to change that

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Made with Code teamed up with Snap Inc. to host #MyFutureMe, a competition for teens to code their own Snapchat geofilters and write their vision for the future. 22,000 teens submitted designs and shared their visions, and Zoe Lynch—a ninth-grader from South Orange, NJ—was recently named the winner by a panel of judges, including Malala Yousafzai, Lilly Singh, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and our own CFO Ruth Porat. We chatted with Zoe about her experience, how she made her filter, and why it’s important for more girls to get into coding.

What was the inspiration behind your filter?

z

The brain has fascinated me since I was younger—it’s where creativity and ideas come from so I wanted to use that. The coding project had peace signs, so I had the idea to manipulate the peace signs to look like a brain. The idea for my filter was what can happen when everyone puts their brain power together. When we do that, we are unstoppable.

After you became a finalist, you attended TEDWomen. What was that like?

It was crazy inspiring. It showed me how many powerful and cool women are out there opening paths for girls like me. I got to meet the other finalists, and we created a group chat on Snap, so that we can follow each other and stay connected. We’ve been each other’s biggest cheerleaders. All these girls are going to do awesome things. Tech mogul alert!

How did you feel when you found out that you were selected as the final winner?

I couldn’t believe it! Everyone was so talented and worked hard, but I was so happy that my ideas and creativity were recognized. To win a trip to visit Google and Snapchat was like a dream!

What advice do you have for other girls who want to learn how to code?

I know a lot of girls who think they’re not good at this kind of stuff, but most of them haven’t even tried it. So you have to try it because otherwise you won’t know if you’ll like it. I loved #MyFutureMe because teens are really into Snapchat and the different filters you can use. When you have an opportunity to make a filter, you realize that coding is behind it all.

My vision for the future is one where innovation is accessible to all. As a multiracial girl, I believe it’s important for everyone to be included. Excerpt from Zoe's vision for the future

You care a lot about inclusion—have you faced situations when inclusion has been a challenge?

When I go to camps or explore things in the engineering field, I’m often the only girl and the only person of color. Usually all the guys go together and it’s kind of discouraging, but I want to try to change that for other girls, so we don’t have to feel this way anymore.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I love to play video games—my favorite is “Uncharted”—but many of them are not really targeted to women. For women, the game is fun but you know deep down that it’s not really made for you. If I was going to make a video game, it would be an engineering game but you’re helping people. Say you want to build a bridge in the game, you’d need to use mathematics and engineering to make it work.

Who are your role models?

My mom. Hands down. She’s a Hispanic woman and and there are only white males at her level at her company, which is where my passion for inclusion started. She’s also pushed me and has always supported me.

You recently visited Snapchat and Google. What was the coolest part of the tour?

Beside the amazing offices (free food!), the coolest part was meeting the engineers. I was so inspired by their journeys and how different they all were. One was an actress, the other a gamer and the other wasn't even sure of her major until she took her first CS class in college. It showed me that there are many paths to getting into tech.

MFM121917_KeywordSelects_inline-2.png
Zoe on her tour at Snapchat in Venice, CA.

If you could have any job at Google, what would it be?

I’d want to be an engineer in artificial intelligence—I think that technology and machine learning could change the world. I’d like to see more women and people of color in the field, too.

MFM121917_KeywordSelects_inline-4.png
Zoe chats with an engineer at Google.

What do you think the future will look like when you’re 30?

I’m hoping that in the future, everyone works together. And it’ll be cool to live through new technology breakthroughs!

The #MyFutureMe winner is often the only girl—but she’s going to change that

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Made with Code teamed up with Snap Inc. to host #MyFutureMe, a competition for teens to code their own Snapchat geofilters and write their vision for the future. 22,000 teens submitted designs and shared their visions, and Zoe Lynch—a ninth-grader from South Orange, NJ—was recently named the winner by a panel of judges, including Malala Yousafzai, Lilly Singh, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and our own CFO Ruth Porat. We chatted with Zoe about her experience, how she made her filter, and why it’s important for more girls to get into coding.

What was the inspiration behind your filter?

z

The brain has fascinated me since I was younger—it’s where creativity and ideas come from so I wanted to use that. The coding project had peace signs, so I had the idea to manipulate the peace signs to look like a brain. The idea for my filter was what can happen when everyone puts their brain power together. When we do that, we are unstoppable.

After you became a finalist, you attended TEDWomen. What was that like?

It was crazy inspiring. It showed me how many powerful and cool women are out there opening paths for girls like me. I got to meet the other finalists, and we created a group chat on Snap, so that we can follow each other and stay connected. We’ve been each other’s biggest cheerleaders. All these girls are going to do awesome things. Tech mogul alert!

How did you feel when you found out that you were selected as the final winner?

I couldn’t believe it! Everyone was so talented and worked hard, but I was so happy that my ideas and creativity were recognized. To win a trip to visit Google and Snapchat was like a dream!

What advice do you have for other girls who want to learn how to code?

I know a lot of girls who think they’re not good at this kind of stuff, but most of them haven’t even tried it. So you have to try it because otherwise you won’t know if you’ll like it. I loved #MyFutureMe because teens are really into Snapchat and the different filters you can use. When you have an opportunity to make a filter, you realize that coding is behind it all.

My vision for the future is one where innovation is accessible to all. As a multiracial girl, I believe it’s important for everyone to be included. Excerpt from Zoe's vision for the future

You care a lot about inclusion—have you faced situations when inclusion has been a challenge?

When I go to camps or explore things in the engineering field, I’m often the only girl and the only person of color. Usually all the guys go together and it’s kind of discouraging, but I want to try to change that for other girls, so we don’t have to feel this way anymore.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I love to play video games—my favorite is “Uncharted”—but many of them are not really targeted to women. For women, the game is fun but you know deep down that it’s not really made for you. If I was going to make a video game, it would be an engineering game but you’re helping people. Say you want to build a bridge in the game, you’d need to use mathematics and engineering to make it work.

Who are your role models?

My mom. Hands down. She’s a Hispanic woman and and there are only white males at her level at her company, which is where my passion for inclusion started. She’s also pushed me and has always supported me.

You recently visited Snapchat and Google. What was the coolest part of the tour?

Beside the amazing offices (free food!), the coolest part was meeting the engineers. I was so inspired by their journeys and how different they all were. One was an actress, the other a gamer and the other wasn't even sure of her major until she took her first CS class in college. It showed me that there are many paths to getting into tech.

MFM121917_KeywordSelects_inline-2.png
Zoe on her tour at Snapchat in Venice, CA.

If you could have any job at Google, what would it be?

I’d want to be an engineer in artificial intelligence—I think that technology and machine learning could change the world. I’d like to see more women and people of color in the field, too.

MFM121917_KeywordSelects_inline-4.png
Zoe chats with an engineer at Google.

What do you think the future will look like when you’re 30?

I’m hoping that in the future, everyone works together. And it’ll be cool to live through new technology breakthroughs!

Source: Education


Fostering a love for reading among Indonesian kids

Siti Arofa teaches a first grade class at SD Negeri Sidorukan in Gresik, East Java. Many of her students start the school year without foundational reading skills or even an awareness of how fun books can be. But she noticed that whenever she read out loud using different expressions and voices, the kids would sit up and their faces would light up with excitement. One 6-year-old student, Keyla, loves repeating the stories with a full imitation of Siti’s expressions. Developing this love for stories and storytelling has helped Keyla and her classmates improve their reading and speaking skills. She’s just one child. Imagine the impact that the availability of books and skilled teachers can have on generations of schoolchildren.


In Indonesia today, it's estimated that for every 100 children who enter school, only 25 exit meeting minimum international standards of literacy and numeracy. This poses a range of challenges for a relatively young country, where nearly one-third of the population—or approximately 90 million people—are below the age of 15.  


To help foster a habit of reading, Google.org, as part of its $50M commitment to close global learning gaps, is supporting Inibudi, Room to Read and Taman Bacaan Pelangi, to reach 200,000 children across Indonesia.


We’ve consistently heard from Indonesian educators and nonprofits that there’s a need for more high-quality storybooks. With $2.5 million in grants, the nonprofits will create a free digital library of children's stories that anyone can contribute to. Many Googlers based in our Jakarta office have already volunteered their time to translate existing children’s stories into Bahasa Indonesia to increase the diversity of reading resources that will live on this digital platform.


The nonprofits will develop teaching materials and carry out teacher training in eastern Indonesia to enhance teaching methods that improve literacy, and they’ll also help Indonesian authors and illustrators to create more engaging books for children.   


Through our support of this work, we hope we can inspire a lifelong love of reading for many more students like Keyla.


Photo credit: Room to Read


Source: Education


Fostering a love for reading among Indonesian kids

Siti Arofa teaches a first grade class at SD Negeri Sidorukan in Gresik, East Java. Many of her students start the school year without foundational reading skills or even an awareness of how fun books can be. But she noticed that whenever she read out loud using different expressions and voices, the kids would sit up and their faces would light up with excitement. One 6-year-old student, Keyla, loves repeating the stories with a full imitation of Siti’s expressions. Developing this love for stories and storytelling has helped Keyla and her classmates improve their reading and speaking skills. She’s just one child. Imagine the impact that the availability of books and skilled teachers can have on generations of schoolchildren.


In Indonesia today, it's estimated that for every 100 children who enter school, only 25 exit meeting minimum international standards of literacy and numeracy. This poses a range of challenges for a relatively young country, where nearly one-third of the population—or approximately 90 million people—are below the age of 15.  


To help foster a habit of reading, Google.org, as part of its $50M commitment to close global learning gaps, is supporting Inibudi, Room to Read and Taman Bacaan Pelangi, to reach 200,000 children across Indonesia.


We’ve consistently heard from Indonesian educators and nonprofits that there’s a need for more high-quality storybooks. With $2.5 million in grants, the nonprofits will create a free digital library of children's stories that anyone can contribute to. Many Googlers based in our Jakarta office have already volunteered their time to translate existing children’s stories into Bahasa Indonesia to increase the diversity of reading resources that will live on this digital platform.


The nonprofits will develop teaching materials and carry out teacher training in eastern Indonesia to enhance teaching methods that improve literacy, and they’ll also help Indonesian authors and illustrators to create more engaging books for children.   


Through our support of this work, we hope we can inspire a lifelong love of reading for many more students like Keyla.

Wrapping up a year of impact with holiday giving

The holidays are a time for celebrating family and community, and it’s my favorite time at Google because Googlers give back to those who need it most.

Through Google.org grants and the generosity of Googlers, we set new giving records in 2017, bringing more resources to nonprofits, and more opportunities for Googlers to volunteer their time and expertise. In total this year, Google and Googlers donated more than $260 million to nonprofits. Our giving was centered our three core areas—education, economic opportunity and inclusion—and we provided opportunities for Googlers and the public to support disaster relief campaigns to help victims of hurricanes, fires, floods and other crises.

Holiday Giving and Giving Week

One of the main ways we give back during the holidays is through Giving Week, our annual global campaign where Googlers sign up to personally match donations their peers make. In just one week, Googlers pledged, and Google matched over $20 million for 1,000+ organizations around the world. The organizations that topped the list this year include the ACLU, Second Harvest Food Bank, GiveDirectly, and Doctors Without Borders.

In addition, this year we set up a $30 million holiday fund to support over 35 nonprofits around the world. We asked Googlers to help us direct these funds to a core group of organizations, from all regions and across a range of issue areas, including Pratham Books, an organization that addresses education gaps in India, and the International Rescue Committee, which helps people in crisis.

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Google Gift Match & Crisis Response

Year round, Google.org matches up to $6,000 in employee donations to nonprofits of their choice. Through this program, Googlers and Google have given nearly $97 million—including over $20M to crisis relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Florida, Houston, South Asia, and more. Googlers are also generous with their time, especially during crises—this year Googlers went to Puerto Rico to work with our grantee NetHope to help restore connectivity in areas affected by the hurricane.

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Google.org & Google volunteers

Together, our people, products, and philanthropy create opportunity for everyone. We pledged $1 billion in Google.org grants over five years to nonprofits around the world, and 1 million hours that Googlers can volunteer to nonprofits. This year alone, we supported nonprofits with $120 million in grants. In addition, Googlers volunteered over 220,000 hours of their time and expertise.

giving_org_3.jpg

I'm proud of our impact this year, and the Googlers who made it possible. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday.

All things are possible: Grow with Google and Google.org Impact Challenge come to OKC

As an Oklahoman, it’s exciting to work for a company like Google in Oklahoma City—a community I’m proud to call home and that has given me every opportunity in life to succeed. The homesteader Angelo Scott said our city’s spirit has "an attitude that all things are possible if people are willing to take a chance and embrace the future without hesitation or reservation." As Oklahoma City has developed a diverse economic base as a center for energy, healthcare, aerospace and technology, its spirit remains evident.


Many Oklahoma City businesses are using technology to grow, reach new customers, and adapt to changing markets. For example, Langston's Western Wear, a century-old family business, found new momentum when it put its products on the web. Now, online sales account for more than 25 percent of their overall business. Watch their story:

Brian Barber: Retail cowboy

Grow with Google aims to support more students, educators, job seekers and businesses like Langston's as they adapt and grow. This national initiative provides training, tools and workshops to help everyone build the digital skills they need.


The Google.org Impact Challenge Oklahoma City is the latest component of this initiative. Nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma City are invited to submit innovative ideas for economic development and job creation. A panel of local advisors will select four winners, and each will receive $50,000 in funding as well as training from Google employees. The local community will then have the opportunity to vote on which of the four projects it believes will have the greatest impact, and the winner will receive an additional $50,000 grant.


We announced the Challenge at the Grow with Google event in Oklahoma City this week, where—with the support of 33 local partners—we met a thousand Oklahoman small businesses, job seekers, educators and students. They participated in training sessions, hands-on demos, workshops, and one-on-one coaching from Googlers. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Secretary of Education Workforce Development Natalie Shirley, and General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder Sam Presti, who is an advisor for the Challenge, also joined us to kick off the day.

Google has called Oklahoma home since 2011, and we’ll continue to work with local partners to bring Grow with Google programming to OKC. Grow with Google will come to more cities and towns next year—see where we're headed at g.co/grow/events.

Tackling the “homework gap” with the National AfterSchool Association

Editor’s note: We’re providing a $500,000 grant to support the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) as a part of our ongoing commitment to help underserved communities deliver on the promise of educational technology. In this post, Gina Warner, president and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association, describes how we’re helping students access the technology they need to learn and grow beyond classroom walls.


Learning doesn’t stop after the school bell rings. Students actually spend 80 percent of their time outside of a classroom, where they develop essential skills by trying out new hobbies, forming important relationships and completing their schoolwork. But there’s a big issue here: While a majority of teachers increasingly assign homework that requires the internet, millions of students—primarily those from low-income and rural communities—don’t have access at home. This is known as “the homework gap” and it’s causing too many students to fall behind.


We believe that afterschool programs can play a big role in closing this gap, but they often need more support and guidance in order to do so. That’s why we’re so thrilled that Google is stepping up to provide this grant to support the 4 million students our members serve.

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The National AfterSchool Association works with the Connecticut AfterSchool Network to support organizations like DOMUS Kids in Stamford, CT, that help young people learn and challenge themselves socially, emotionally, and academically.

For 30 years, the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) has supported more than 520,000 people who are there for students during out-of-school hours: the professionals who keep kids engaged, help them do their homework, and make sure they're safe and supported. Through a new $500,000 grant from Google, we’ll help to make sure that afterschool professionals and their students have access to the technology they need. We're proud to build on the work of Google's Dynamic Learning Project and Grow with Google to provide educators—including those outside of traditional classroom settings—with the skills, trainings and resources they need to help tackle the homework gap.


With Google’s support, we’ve started by commissioning a research review to learn more about how afterschool programs can help close the homework gap. Our initial report, “Empowering Afterschool Professionals for Digital Learning,” found that afterschool programs have the capacity to offer deeper digital learning opportunities. But to fully help young people access and best use technology, our afterschool professionals need guidance, skills and knowledge. Over the upcoming months, with volunteer support from Googlers, we’ll create a toolkit and hands-on trainings for afterschool professionals looking to provide students with access to technology outside of classroom hours. As these are available, these resources will be shared on our NAA site and will be made freely available to the public.


With better support from afterschool professionals, we can't wait to see how our students will develop into digital citizens ready to tackle whatever the future brings.

Source: Education