Technology Training Transforms Lives and Careers With Help from Microsoft Unlimited Potential Program – Stories

WilfredoCanalesinthecomputerlabattheLatinAmericanYouthCenter,Washington,D。

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TheturningpointforCanales,a26-year-oldwaiter,camewhenheenrolledinafreecomputercourseatthenonprofitLatinAmericanYouthCenter(LAYC)here。

Fortwohoursaday,twiceaweek,CanaleslearnstouseMicrosoftOffice2003applicationssuchasWord,ExcelandOutlookaswellasMicrosoftInternetExplorer。

ThesenewskillshaveenabledCanalestohelphisdaughterwithherhomeworkandinspiredhimtopursuemoretrainingtowardapossiblecareerinrestaurantmanagementsomethinghecouldnthaveimaginedbefore。

Theseclassesarereallychangingmylife,thewayIseethings,saysCanales,whorecentlyboughtahomecomputer。

IfeelliketheworldissmallerthanIthought,nowthatIcangetontheInternetandfindwhateverIwanttoknow。

HereintheU。

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capitalcity,morethan110adultslikeCanaleshaveparticipatedintheorganizationsComputerLiteracyProgramsincetheLAYClauncheditsfirstcoursesinearly2003usingaUS$50,000grantfromMicrosoftsUnlimitedPotential(UP)program,aglobalinitiativefocusedonprovidingtechnologyskillsforunderservedpeoplethroughcommunity-basedtechnologyandlearningcenters(CTLCs)。

Tonight,atagraduationceremonyforCanalesandothersenrolledthiswinter,Microsoftrepresentativeswillpresentanother$50,000checktotheLAYCaspartofasecondroundofUPgrantstotalingmorethan$25millionincashandsoftwareformorethan70nonprofitorganizations。

Microsofthasdistributednearly$50millionincashandsoftwaretomorethan150programsin45countriessincetheprogramwasinitiatedinMay2003。

Inanefforttopromotedigitalinclusionaroundtheworld,Microsoftisprovidingthesecommunity-basedcenterswithcash,software,curriculaandtechnologyassistancetohelpeliminatebarrierstotechnologyaccessandeducationalassistancefacedbyresidentsofunderservedcommunities。

InadditiontomonetarygrantsandsoftwaredonationsforCTLCs,UnlimitedPotentialofferstechnologycurriculummaterialsandwillsoonprovideaworldwidesupportnetworkfororganizationsthatareworkingtonarrowthetechnologyskillsgap。

ThelocallybasedprogramsreceivingUnlimitedPotentialgrantsareeachcreatingremarkableeconomicandsocialopportunitiesthroughtechnologytraininginthecommunitiestheyserve,saysAkhtarBadshah,seniordirectorofCommunityAffairsatMicrosoft。

Theirworkisessentialinensuringeveryonehastheskillsneededtosucceedintodaysknowledge-basedeconomy。

Since1974,theLAYChasservedprimarilylow-andmoderate-incomefamiliesintheU。

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capitalareawithprogramsspanningacademics,jobtraining,healtheducation,socialservices,leadershipdevelopment,substanceabuseprevention,housing,arts,humanitiesandrecreation。

Whenthecenterfirstopeneditscomputerlabseveralyearsago,however,thefacilitywasntbeingusedasmuchasLAYCExecutiveDirectorLoriKaplanhadenvisioned。

Organizationssuchasourshavehadgreatsuccessattractingdonationsofhardwareandsoftware,butitcanbemuchtoughertosecurefundingtohireaqualifiedpersonwhocanworkwithkidsandfamiliesinusingthetechnology,saysKaplan。

Soforawhile,wehadalabbutnoformalcurriculumandteachingenvironment。

Lastyears$50,000UnlimitedPotentialgrantallowedtheLAYCtohireAbnerSorto,whotaughtcomputercoursesinhisnativeCostaRicabeforecomingherethreeyearsago。

KaplansaysSorto,whoteachesfiveclasseseachweek,alsohasbeeninstrumentalindesigningthecoursematerials,recruitingstudentsandexpandingthescopeofavailabletechnologywithinthelab。

Originallyconceivedtoserve20to25parentsannually,theComputerLiteracyProgramexpectstoenrollatleast125adultsthisyear。

Also,theLAYChadmorethan60youthsenrolledinafter-schoolclassesandmorethan100initssummerprogramslastyear。

OtherplansthatwillbesupportedbythisyearsUnlimitedPotentialgrantincludeaddingmoreadvancedcoursessuchaspreparingstudentstoearnanA+certificationininstalling,maintaining,customizing,andoperatingpersonalcomputersandopeningasecondcomputerlabinanadjacentneighborhood。

Alotoftheadultscomeherebecausetheywanttoimprovetheirjobprospects。

Theyrealizethatiftheyrenotcomputer-literate,itsgoingtolimiteverythingtheydo,saysKaplan。

ThroughUnlimitedPotential,Microsofthasbeenacatalystforustoturnourcomputerlabintoavitalcommunityresourcethatreachesfarmorepeoplethanwecouldhavewithoutthatsupport。

Ontheothersideofthecountry,inSanPablo,Calif。

UnlimitedPotentialsupportsanothercommunity-basedtechnologytrainingprogramcalledStreetTechintraininganaverageof60to100adultstudentsperyearforentry-leveljobsintheinformationtechnologyindustry。

A$30,000UnlimitedPotentialgrantearlierthisyearhelpedStreetTechlaunchtwonewofferingsacomputerrefurbishmentprogramandatechnicalsupportbusiness,ReliaTechthatprovideStreetTechclientsandrecentgraduateswithhands-onexperiencetopreparethemforhigh-techcareers。

Ourprogramisdesignedtomakesurethatpeoplewhootherwisewouldntbeabletoaffordtechnologytrainingandjobplacementassistancecanreceiveaccesstothoseadvantages,saysPaulLamb,executivedirectorofStreetTech。

Beyondthefinancialbarrier,thebiggestchallengeformanyofthepeopleinthecommunitiesweserveisjustfearitselftheyveneverhadaccesstotechnology,andsotheyreuncertainaboutit。

Theydontreallyseethebenefitsoflearningabouttechnology,especiallyiftheyrealreadystrugglingtopaytheirbillsandtakecareoftheirfamilies。

Establishedin1999,StreetTechservesclientsfromdisadvantagedcommunitiesintheSanFranciscoBayArea。

Itstechnicaltrainingclassesrangefromathree-monthComputerApprenticeshipcourse,whichfocusesonintroductoryPCrepairandmaintenance,tomoreadvancedA+andMicrosoftCertifiedProfessional(MCP)certificationprograms。