On Saturday, June 2, SAO partnered with Mayor Sam Adams, Wieden + Kennedy and Good Magazine on an all-day hack-a-thon to support Portland’s public schools. Called Hack for Portland Schools, the event drew over 40 attendees who formed 8 teams comprised of school advocates, students, non-profit leaders, public-sector officials and e-government staff, teams of developers from local software companies such as Funny Monkey, Celly, and The Brigade, and dozens of individual programmers and design professionals from the Portland tech community.
Connecting the 85%
Research shows that nearly 85% of people living in central Portland do not have a child in the school system. Attendees of Hack for Portland Schools brainstormed ways to foster better connections to area schools and developed software apps in furtherance of this goal.
Out of the 8 presentations, a majority of teams demoed working prototypes of apps that focused on ways to provide community volunteers with more and better information about needs within local schools and ways to get involved. Many of the apps developed during the hack-a-thon are currently available on Github, and Funny Monkey has a comprehensive blog post describing the app it developed.
A Coat, A Can, A Book, An Hour, A Grand
Through its research with schools and community organizations, Wieden + Kennedy learned that a few simple things—people’s time, books, food, and clothing—can make a big difference to students. A number of organizations already exist that help to provide students with resources, but there are still unmet needs. At the event, I spoke with staff from programs like Aspire, and it became clear to me that time spent mentoring kids is the most impactful contribution any single individual can make. By demonstrating a sustained commitment and a willingness to invest in someone’s potential—even a couple of hours a month—you can have a huge impact on that child’s future success.
SAO members have been active contributors over the years to a number of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs ranging from TechStart to First Robotics, and to community development projects like the Rosewood Initiative in East Portland. Each of these programs and initiatives have been developed or enhanced greatly by adults in the technology community who wanted to give back.
Girls Get IT!
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet a remarkable student at Hillsboro High School named Savannah Loberger. Savannah is a student who saw a need in her community and decided to give back, as well. A couple of weeks ago, Willamette Week did an article that shone a spotlight on the local tech community and drew attention to the relatively small percentage of women who work in this industry. This was not news to many people who work in this industry, nor was it news to Savannah.
Last summer, recognizing that she was the only girl in the after school engineering program run by Don Domes at Hillsboro High School, Savannah decided to organize a summer technology camp for girls called Girls Get IT!, to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. In its first year, 40 middle and high school girls from across the Portland metro area participated in the camp, and Savannah garnered quite a bit of attention from local media, like this article in The Oregonian.
This July, Savannah aims to build on the initial success of the camp by expanding its offerings, and holding three sessions to accommodate more girls. If you are interested in serving as a mentor, or if you or your company is interested in helping to sponsor the camp this summer, please contact Jeff Krueger or Don Domes.