Teenage drug dealer turns life around through Microsoft tech

Feb 9, 2015   |   Jake Siegel

Wanderson Skrock grew up in a slum outside Rio de Janeiro. By 14 he was selling drugs, which soon landed him in prison. Twice.

Then Skrock found something unexpected during his second stint in prison: hope.

It came in the form of a course offered through a Microsoft partner, Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI). He saw the potential for technology to change lives, including his own. After he left prison he became a computer instructor for CDI.

Skrock now teaches children and teens who come from similar backgrounds; in seven years he’s taught more than 5,000 students. Microsoft recently named him one of its global YouthSpark Youth Advisors, who will help the company create programs, partnerships and resources that meet the needs of youth around the world.

In a video filmed for Microsoft, Skrock directly thanked employees for the opportunity to change not just his own life but the lives of thousands of young people.

“All the support you provide gives us a second chance. So please work with determination, with fire in your eyes, knowing the work you are doing is important and it is saving people’s lives.”

For Hernan Rincón, Microsoft president of Latin America, those words apply to what the company is doing throughout the region. He shared Skrock’s story recently when he collected an award on behalf of the company for its longtime support of the Trust for the Americas’ Partnership for Opportunities in Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA) program.

Over the past decade, POETA has brought technology training to at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and women, and prepares them to find a job or become entrepreneurs. The program has now evolved to “POETA YouthSpark” with a specific focus and attention on at-risk youth and young women as part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative.

For Rincón, the program is near and dear to his heart; it was one of the first initiatives he launched after joining Microsoft 12 years ago. “It is humbling to see how POETA has enabled opportunities for thousands over the last 10 years in Latin America,” he said.

But Microsoft’s work in Latin America extends far beyond POETA, Rincón said. He cites these stats:

  • 20 Microsoft Innovation Centers
  • 6,000 new startups supported by BizSpark
  • 1 million direct jobs within the Microsoft’s partner ecosystem
  • 190,000 students changing the world through the Imagine Cup
  • 2.1 million young people trained through the Basic Technical Support course
  • 320,000 Latin American teachers connected via Microsoft Educators Network
  • 13 million benefitted through the Shape the Future program
  • 4 million teachers and 120 million students benefitted by education programs
  • 13 Showcase Schools designing innovation models in education
  • 57 million young people benefitted through Microsoft YouthSpark
  • Almost 13 million K’iche’, Quechua and Mayan speakers benefitted through the use of these native languages as part of the Microsoft Local Language Program
  • $396 million donated in software and cash to 4,975 non-profit organizations

Those facts and figures speak volumes about Microsoft’s impact in Latin America, Rincón said.

But for him, the true impact is in those words from Skrock.

“At the end of that video, Wanderson speaks directly to all of us with singular eloquence and passion,” Rincón said. “Those words motivate me to continue. And I hope those words inspire all employees to continue as well.”

Jake Siegel
Microsoft News Center Staff

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