Avon Micro-Grants Available for New K-12 Outreach Programs

Woman Speaker

I don't always read my Systers mail. It accumulates in a mailbox until I have the time to indulge myself in its wealth of information, insights, encouragement and opportunities for women, about women, by women. During one such binge a year ago, I came across a brief post announcing a new grant, the Hello Tomorrow Fund, created by Avon. Every week for a year, commencing in April 2007, Avon would award $5,000 to the creator of a program, project, or idea that empowers women. I applied, and won for the week of December 4. Here's my proposal, what I did with most of the money, my plans for what remains, and how you might get a micro-share of the benefit.

 

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The Avon grant is not specific to women in computing, but it does support the company’s mission to promote economic opportunity for women, especially in careers where their employment options are limited. It fits nicely with a project that I've been working on with two amazing colleagues: Katie A. Siek, a former student at Indiana University and now an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Kay Connelly, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Indiana University. We three are members of the ACM-W Working Committee. Our program broadens participation in computing by propagating K-12 outreach programs to other schools, especially minority-serving institutions. While she was a student at IU, Katie created a "roadshow," called Just Be, to counter the "uncool" perception sometimes associated with careers in computing. Just Be has grown over the past four years into a respected and highly visible program, reaching about 800 middle and high school youngsters in southern Indiana every year.

 

We desired to impact a wider geographical area and achieve a sustained change in attitudes on a national level, which necessitates simultaneous outreach to many schools in many areas. We initiated a series of Bring IT On! workshops, designed to teach schools how to establish their own outreach programs using Just Be as a model.

 

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We were in the midst of organizing the second Bring IT On! workshop when I read about the Avon award. We had learned some valuable lessons during the first year and we needed additional funding to implement our ideas. First, we recognized the need to identify a faculty advisor at each school to facilitate the creation of the program when students bring back the prototype. We learned it was essential to involve the advisor in the process from the beginning. Secondly, student groups require a modest startup fund to cover the travel costs incurred in visiting schools. Finally, we resolved to bring the participants back for a reunion, six months later, to report their progress and get feedback, advice and encouragement to grow their fledgling programs.

 

The Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund provided the means to allow representatives from the eight Indiana schools that participated in the 2007 Bring IT On! workshop to regroup for a day-long meeting in Indianapolis. The students were energized and productive and we were thrilled to see how far they had progressed in so short a time.

 

Each school taking part in the reunion received a micro-grant of $200 to jump start their outreach program. Now we are offering similar awards to other schools to help them establish new outreach programs.

 

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member in a computing-related discipline at a college or university, you are eligible for a micro-grant. It's easy to apply. Just send me an email (menzel@indiana.edu) and provide the following information:

  1. School and department, city and state

  2. Name and contact information for faculty advisor

  3. Type of school: e.g., R1, teaching, community, public, private

  4. Short summary of program status and outline of plans for first year

  5. Agreement to share developed resources with online community

For those who want help with the nuts and bolts of designing a Roadshow program for K-12, we offer workshops on getting a new program off the ground. Along with Chris Stephenson, Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association, Katie and I are proposing a workshop for SIGCSE 2009. Groups consisting of a faculty or staff member and one or more students are strongly encouraged. Participants will learn how to establish a new program , build relationships with K-12 teachers, create an interactive presentation, generate enthusiasm, advertise effectively, obtain financing and staff support, train new presenters, fine-tune the content, achieve sustainability, and evaluate their success.