Aimee Sprung

civic engagement manager + early riser

Aimee Sprung
Meet Aimee
To keep up with Aimee you need to be up early. Like 5 AM early. Then you have to squeeze in Crossfit, grow STEM education programs, collaborate with community leaders and still keep up with her family - 2 boys require high energy. Or you can hit the snooze and sleep soundly knowing Aimee has that all covered.

Urban Farming: From Microsoft to the Dinner Table

Urban Farming at Microsoft. Photo credits: Scott Eklund.

Boston isn’t known for farming and agriculture, but we are known for our strengths in Technology, Collaboration, Innovation and Education. With organizations like 1776 naming Boston one of the top cities to enable collaboration to capitalize on the shift to a digital economy, it’s no surprise we can even apply these strengths to agricultural sciences. I see examples of our prizewinning advancements in technology along the entire farm to table continuum.

One of the truly special pieces of being a member of the Board of Overseers at the Museum of Science is participating in Davos on the Charles. Davos on the Charles is a unique event created by the Overseers, for the Overseers. Panels are created based on various topics of interest and different Overseers take positions on those panels, study up and present a unique perspective. In coordination with one of the Museum’s focus areas, this year’s event was focused on food.

I was a panelist on one of five panels along with three other overseers. Our panel was focused on The Future of your Food: Farming Engineered Foods and I chose to speak about urban farming – an area Microsoft is investing in at our headquarters in Redmond.

Aimee Sprung on a panel at Davos on the Charles. Photo: Museum of Science, Boston

Why is this an area of interest for Microsoft? Well, as our growing push for sustainability merges with industry, we need to be thinking about where our food in coming from and how it is affecting the environment and our bank accounts. We need to reimagine how we sustainably grow plants that sustain us in turn. And even though technology is just a tool, it is becoming just as important as shovels and soil in how we efficiently grow produce.

As farm-to-table dining gains more widespread adoption, it’s important to note the technology, innovation, and collaboration that support this initiative and make it a more sustainable practice.

Technology

Freight FarmsBuilt entirely inside a 40’ x 8’ x 9.5’ shipping container, freight farms are outfitted with all the tools needed for high-volume, consistent harvests. With innovative climate technology and growing equipment, the perfect environment is achievable 365 days a year, regardless of geographic location.

Of course, technology plays a big role in how we’re advancing agriculture. The number of manually harvested crops is rapidly decreasing, with startups like Harvest Automation bringing automated processes to planting, maintaining, and analyzing commercial growing operations. We’re even seeing AI being adopted into agricultural practices as indoor and vertical farming grow into more regular practices.

Innovation

Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, for example, is growing produce on campus using hydroponics. This practically eliminates the need to transport as the greens are grown in the same buildings where they are prepared and served to employees. Hydroponics also uses 90% less water than soil based growing and by growing in a contained environment, it also eliminates the need for pesticides.

Microsoft has incorporated a Micro-greens project on its Redmond campus, where its cafeteria hosts an urban farming project to grow highly nutritious greens that are grown and served right on campus. This doubles as a cost-effective program that assists in reducing the company’s carbon footprint and is promoting a stronger investment in on-campus agriculture.

Collaboration

One significant food of the future challenge remains in equity in pricing and accessibility. There are food deserts in this country — and in neighborhoods of Boston. Boston’s Food for Free is partnering with Boston Public Schools to set up school markets — food market / food pantry conglomerates open to the community in local schools. Here, anyone in the community can shop for fresh local produce, learn about its origins, and commit themselves to sustainable practices in shopping and eating.

Boston’s Fresh Truck takes this same approach to celebrating healthy food culture, bringing fresh, affordable food to communities in need while providing community outreach, education and programming to promote equitable access to healthy choices.

Education

It doesn’t just end at the table. There’s strong need for education around food and sustainability in Boston, at Microsoft, and around the world, and this innovation is just a start. In the meantime, I look toward the Museum of Science, which just ran a charette to leverage strategy on how the museum can connect food to technology in the city of Boston. I can’t wait to see how the museum presents this in future exhibits and practices, and to follow the museum’s future explorations in food and agricultural innovation.

From where I sit at Microsoft, I’m curious to see how technology can improve efficiencies for farming, increase local growing / farm to table initiatives and maybe even allow me to be an urban farmer through sensors for irrigation needs or improving how we use space to grow. Could a parking garage become a storage facility for shipping containers that are growing dark leafy greens? Could I be making more sustainable choices in the way I shop and eat? Could growing my own produce provide more sustainable practices for others?

As I reflect on my panel at Davos on the Charles and the Urban Farming work beginning at Microsoft, it’s clear that technology will play a significant role in increasing sustainability in agriculture. I’m excited to watch as new innovations impact the farm to table continuum in Boston. Maybe there will even be some farming startups in this year’s class at MassChallenge – I’ll be looking for them!

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to environmental sustainability, head to the Microsoft Green Blog.

Local Teachers, STEM Advocates Weigh in on New CS Standards In MA Schools

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The state of Massachusetts, along with STEM education group MassCAN, an alliance of organizations advocating for computer science in schools, has recently developed voluntary Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards for MA high schools. Microsoft was proud to participate on the diverse review panel that was assembled to head the project, which involved reviewing existing CS standards and the current Technology Literacy Standards.

We spoke with local, MA high school CS teachers and STEM education advocates about why these new digital literacy standards are important for our kids:

Why are digital literacy standards important? What impact will they have on MA?

“I think these standards show that digital literacy and Computer Science are important parts of the K-12 education. It will take time for schools to ramp up, but a lot is already being done to provide interested teachers with professional development. I would like to see this expand over the years to the point that every student in Massachusetts gets a chance to learn some basic computer programming.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

“Young people are not pursuing STEM fields as often as they did in the past. Less than 25 percent of students are choosing STEM majors in college, and of that, 38 percent do not graduate with a STEM degree. Meanwhile, demand for STEM workers has grown three times faster than non-STEM employment over the past 10 years. For Massachusetts to be globally competitive and to expand its economy, we must have digital literacy standards to prepare young people for the ever changing work force.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

“It also shows that Massachusetts finds value in the topics of computer science and digital literacy. As a teacher, this is very important to me, because I have faced issues as a computer science teacher in MA, such as no licensure currently existing to teach CS in MA. Now that the standards are outlined, licensure tests can be created and masters programs specifically around teaching HS CS will be developed.”

— Meg Bednarcik, Computer Science teacher at Burlington High School (@msbednarcik)

“The standards are a historic step forward. They are important because they validate computer science as a foundational skill, and provide a consistent framework for all schools, so all students can have the same educational experiences, regardless of  zip code, race or gender.  They are a step toward giving all students the code they need to unlock the door to future opportunity.”

— Shereen Tyrrell, Mass TLC (@masstlcef)

How does STEM education improve our communities?

Engineers, innovators, and other STEM professionals are building the world we want to live in. They are tackling issues and coming up with solutions that are transforming how we live and work – making our communities smarter, more productive and successful. Without STEM, we will not innovate and build our economy. We will not be able to compete globally.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

“Science, technology, engineering, and math are the tools we are using to solve problems, create products and improve our quality of life.  STEM education is the the key, preparing today’s students to solve tomorrow’s problems.  STEM education teaches kids to think, problem-solve, work in groups and risk failure – all skills they need in life as much as they need in work.”

— Shereen Tyrrell, Mass TLC (@masstlcef)

How has computer science education impacted MA so far?

Our education system is being transformed already. Many schools have or are moving toward “1:1” — the standards are just setting a baseline of what we should be teaching, although many schools are already teaching these standards, if not more. These standards should be a wake up call for the schools that have been slow in teaching these skills to their students.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

“We have one of the largest tech and innovation communities in the world here in Massachusetts. Computer science education is preparing more people for jobs in this growing industry. Also tech crosses over ever sector – education, government, healthcare, finance – to name a few. We also know STEM jobs pay more than twice the state’s average salary. It’s a field that can lift people out of poverty and into the middle class and beyond.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

How will digital literacy transform our education system?

“We must provide students with more opportunities to explore coding and app development as well as design thinking, collaboration and entrepreneurship. To do this, we need standards and educators who are prepared to teach in a digital world. We also need to provide more support to educators so they can hone their skills and understanding in digital literacy across the curriculum. Organizations such as the Verizon Foundation are focused on improving digital literacy and student achievement in STEM.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

What is the best way youth and parents can support computer science education?

“The best way is for students and parents to advocate for more CS classes or lessons in their school system. If your school already has these courses, make sure you take them — the higher the demand is, the more courses will be offered. I feel that a basic course in computer science should be a high school graduation requirement for every student in Mass., and that we should be moving in that direction.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

Announcing the First Annual Retrospective for Youth CITIES

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Through my role at Microsoft, I get to be a part of the amazing innovation ecosystem we have here in Boston.  And Boston is not just a great place to innovate because I say so; 1776 recently ranked Boston #1 in their Innovation that Matters Report based on six key themes: talent, capital, industry specialization, density, connectivity and culture.  Every day, I have a change to meet a new startup, attend an event to learn about an amazing new innovation or spend time with a founder to think about who can help grow their business.  Partners like MassChallenge, Venture Café, Smarter in the City, Epicenter Community and more are just some of the organizations that make our ecosystem in Boston unique.

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Last year, I brought my husband to the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony.  My son Alex joined me for the Generation Citizen Civics Day in December. We frequently take my family and friends to Lawn on D, the Greenway, the Boston Public Market and other spaces and places with innovative design.  But I often wonder how I can share the uniqueness and unique experience that is the innovation ecosystem in Boston with my family, especially my kids.

582788_273593796065540_1732480520_nOne organization that is working to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs is Youth CITIES.  As a member of the board, I have judged the finals and semi-finals of the Youth CITIES March to May Bootcamp and each year the students blow me away with the comprehensive business ideas and plans they develop through this program.

On June 2, the board will host the First Annual Retrospective for Youth CITIES. Please join me at this event to meet some of the students, hear their ideas and learn more about how you can support this terrific organization.

YouthCities2Youth CITIES – First Annual Retrospective
June 2, 2016 | 6 – 9PM
Light dinner sponsored by Fuji
Davenport building, 25 First Street, Cambridge (Atrium of Accomplice building)

Join Youth CITIES to both help us celebrate our last 7 years and help forge our way forward. Meet and mingle with the new wave of young entrepreneurial thought-leaders.  Get a glimpse of what will be in store for the future, the one they will be building in ways we aren’t even aware of yet.

Meet our alumni students and learn how an entrepreneurial mindset has opened new possibilities and transformed their way of thinking, and find out what big plans they have for the future.

With Special Guests:

  • Toni Oloko, Youth CITIES alum
  • Rayza Carrasco, Youth CITIES alum
  • Jeff Fagnan, Founder and General Partner, Accomplice
  • Tito Jackson, Boston City Councillor

Hosted by: Youth CITIES Board of Directors

  • Vicky Wu Davis, Founder
  • Dan Ross, Chair
  • Aimee Sprung
  • Alex Finkelstein
  • Andy Miller
  • Chris Wolfel
  • David Birnbach
  • Dougan Sherwood
  • Kathy Huber
  • Leland Cheung
  • Steve Willis
  • Tito Jackson
  • Tom O’Donnell
  • Toni Oloko
  • Vivjan Myrto

Register here.

Youth CITIES is a nonprofit organization preparing the next generation to become entrepreneurial leaders in their area of passion, permeating all areas whether startups, corporations, philanthropy, or government.  We are changing the way young people look and think about problems, limitations, and obstacles…associating them as just design constraints within endless opportunities for change.

MLK Day: Service & Education

EdV_Prize_033In recent years, MLK Day has become a day of service, and as MLK Day approaches it always makes me consider the volunteer opportunities I my life. I am fortunate to be able to volunteer at my kids’ school and my synagogue’s religious school. I even coach my 7 year old son’s soccer team in the Fall and Spring – and as a non-soccer player, that one is pretty funny!  But with two school age children and a husband who is an Elementary School principal, my personal passion to enhance education with technology leads to me often centering my volunteer time around education.

With so many amazing non-profit orgs in Boston, sometimes it is difficult to find just one meaningful volunteer opportunities that can also take advantage of my skills, but I feel lucky to have connected with a few groups that I can contribute to and that leave me feeling very fulfilled — and I’d like to highlight a few:

  1. Generation Citizen– Providing all students with an education in Action Civics. Action Civics provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens. GC envisions a country of young people working as active and effective citizens to collectively rebuild our American democracy.
    • VOLUNTEER to speak to a class, judge at Civics Day or attend the Civic Tech Challenge.
  2. Museum of Science– Ensuring students receive science and engineering education through innovative exhibits and events like the recent Science Behind Pixar exhibit.
    • VOLUNTEER at a special event like Computer Science Education Week or support the museum with your expertise through a task force focused on Technology, Food, etc.
  3. Youth Cities– Teaching students about entrepreneurship by engaging local startup founders, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs in our community and teaching them how to build a business.
    • VOLUNTEER by becoming a mentor or attending the March to May bootcamp concluding event to hear more about the student projects.
  4. EdVestors– Improving urban education with a focus on Boston Public Schools.  The work of EdVestors focuses on delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students.
    • VOLUNTEER by attending the Seed Fund Showcase or School on the Move event to support the org and the innovative schools in their network.
  5. Resilient Coders– Teaching young people from traditionally underserved communities to code, creating skilled workers, increasing diversity in the tech industry and filling the pipeline for the tech industry.
    • VOLUNTEER as a mentor to RC students or to speak to a cohort of students during a bootcamp.  You can also hire Resilient Coders to for technical projects like building web sites or apps.

This list is just a start.  I hope you will share your favorite organizations where you spend your time @asprung or in the comments below.  Happy volunteering!

Generation Citizen Civics Day: Empowering Massachusetts’ Young Changemakers

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Twice each year, Generation Citizen hosts Civics Day at the Massachusetts State House. Civics Day is an opportunity for all of the GC students to showcase their work from the semester, demonstrate how they learned to identify the root cause of a civic issue, establish a plan and take action. It was at Civics Day in 2014 that I first discovered how GC is empowering young people to speak up and be heard.  From cafeteria food to youth violence, the GC students are learning how to explain their view point and motivate all of us to influence change in the community.

Now, as a member of the Boston Board of GC, I was honored to serve as a judge at the December 2015 Civics Day. Aliyah Jackson was named GC Student Changemaker and delivered an inspirational closing speech about her experience with GC and encouraging all students to engage:

“…we are never too young to fight for what we believe in. The future of our society is in our voices. We have the power to make a difference each and everyday. So what are we afraid of? We should work together as a whole and mold our future for the better. Our journey doesn’t stop here with Generation Citizen, it’s only just the beginning to the future we wish to see.”

Aliyah’s complete speech is posted here (video) and below:

Want more? Here are some highlights from the most recent GC Civics Day:

What will inspire us at Generation Citizen’s 2016 Civics Days? I can’t wait to see.

#HackWinter makes me excited for snow (almost)

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S’nope & the #HackWinter judges.

I am loving the unseasonably warm and non-snowy weather we are experiencing in Boston this December. But we all know what is coming and Code for Boston is helping us gear up for the winter. Earlier this week, I served as a judge to CFB’s #HackWinter Demo Night, along with Chris Osgood – City of Boston’s Chief of Streets, Holly St. Clair – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Director of Data Services and Meghann Ackerman – Community Engagement Specialist from the City of Somerville.  After 3.5 weeks of work, three teams shared some terrific solutions that I am hoping will be available for our use once the snow starts falling.

Harlan Weber, Code for Boston Brigade Captain, said, “Lately, we are developing more complex apps and it was great to see what the teams could come up with during a 3.5 week hackathon – the teams tacked more complex challenges and built richer solutions that they could have in a weekend.  I hope to see apps like Snopes being used in Boston this winter.”

Last night’s demos included:

  • Snow Ranger – An app to help pedestrians, especially those with mobility difficulties, navigate the winter streetscape after a major snowfall
  • S’nope – “The Uber of Snow Shoveling” developed by Resilient Coders and CFB to combine the need for shoveling and snow removal with youth employment in an app to connect people who can shovel to people with snow.
  • Enersave – An app to monitor energy use, encourage action, and incentivize energy saving.  If Cambridge can reduce its city-wide energy use the most by the end of 2016, it could win the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize (www.cambridgeenergyalliance.org/winit)!

Congrats to S’nope on winning the coveted golden snow shovel award!

Engaging Women & Underrepresented Minorities in STEM & Computer Science

MA STEM Summit

My children are 7 & 10 and currently very into sports – mostly soccer, a little basketball and my husband is working hard to introduce golf too. But in between school, sports and other activities that keep them busy I am always trying to insert some STEM or computer science activities. They are great users of technology, but I want to inspire them to be creators of technology.

In Massachusetts, we are already experiencing a talent crisis. Today, we don’t have enough people to fill all the jobs that require tech skills in the Boston area. It isn’t just jobs at Microsoft and Facebook, it’s jobs that require coding and data skills for the City, the Universities and all the small businesses and startups in the area.

Based on the unfortunate data points stating the very low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities (URM) working at tech companies, we can assume that the current model to encourage students to pursue education and careers in stem works for white men, but that leaves a large portion of the population, including women and URM, who could fill the open jobs. Imagine if Massachusetts could take greater advantage of the entire potential workforce. Focusing just on Boston based 18-30 year olds, if we assume 50% of the population is women and 20% are minority populations (ex. Hispanic, African American), it introduces a large new population of professionals to the talent pool.

This is not an easy challenge to address, so I applaud the people and organizations thinking creatively about how to reach girls and URM populations in Boston. On November 10, I’ll be moderating a panel at the Massachusetts STEM Summit http://mass-stem-summit.org/ featuring people already working in this space to think about how we can begin to provide equitable access to STEM education. The panel will include:

Milton Irving is the Executive Director of the Timothy Smith Network http://timothysmithnetwork.org. TSN aims to increase the capacity of the Greater Roxbury community of Boston to effectively use and access technology by providing technology-related services, educational programs and resources as well as strengthening and supporting the individual Timothy Smith Centers. As of 2015 there are 29 active Timothy Smith Centers. Timothy Smith Centers provide comprehensive community-based technology education services to children, adults, families, adults, and senior citizens.

David Delmar is the Executive Director and Founder of Resilient Coders http://resilientcoders.org/

Resilient Coders teaches young people from traditionally underserved communities how to code. We do this as a way of aligning them with a lucrative and meaningful career path. It’s a multi-tiered program that funnels students from learning HTML after school, through our downtown “Coworking” sessions, and ultimately, hourly employment. Our higher performers participate in Resilient Lab, a web design and development shop with real clients.

Lonsdale Koester is the Executive Director of Science Club for Girls http://www.scienceclubforgirls.org/.

SCFG fosters excitement, confidence and literacy in STEM for girls from underrepresented communities by providing free, experiential programs and by maximizing meaningful interactions with women mentors in science, technology, engineering & mathematics.

I hope to see you at the STEM Summit! In the meantime, please comment on this post or tweet @asprung with any questions you would like me to ask the panel. I’m looking forward to the discussion and creating an ongoing dialogue about this topic.

 

Full session description:

Growing the STEM Workforce: Engaging Women & Underrepresented Minorities in Computer Science

CS is one of the most rewarding and challenging undergraduate degrees a college student can earn, yet only 0.7% of college students graduate from American colleges with a CS degree each year when the technology industry demand is so high. Recent statistics about the low number of women and underrepresented minority employees in many of the large technology companies further stress the opportunity to build a diverse workforce by introducing a more diverse set of students to computer science.

In this panel, hear from community leaders about programs in Massachusetts that are exploring ways to engage young women and a more diverse set of students to learn to code.

Proposed speakers:

  • Milton Irving – Timothy Smith Network
  • David Delmar – Resilient Coders
  • Lonsdale Koester – Science Club for Girls
  • Moderator: Aimee Sprung – Microsoft

 

5 things I learned at the NEC Talent Pipeline Event

A few weeks ago I was part of a terrific panel of speakers convened by the New England Council for a Talent Pipeline Forum. Jamie Merisotis of the Lumina Foundation delivered a keynote address highlighting his new book, America Needs Talent.

This is a topic of great interest to me and Microsoft as we are facing a shortage of talent with Computer Science and Programming skills.  According to code.org, in Massachusetts there are currently 21,665 open computing jobs (3.2x the state average demand rate) but only 1,334 computer science graduates.  Through support of Hour of Code, Coder Dojo, TEALS and more, Microsoft is working trying to innovate in this space and think about new ways to encourage students to pursue education and careers in technology.

In our conversation, my fellow panelists made me aware of a few programs that could also help to address this talent shortage.  Here is what I learned from the panel:

  • Jamie Merisotis, Author and CEO of Lumina Foundation
    With falling wages and rising inequality, persistent unemployment, failing schools, and broken cities, have America’s best days come and gone? In America Needs Talent, Jamie Merisotis, a globally recognized leader in philanthropy, higher education, and public policy, explains why talent is needed to usher in a new era of innovation and success, and why deliberate choices must be made by government, the private sector, education, and individuals to grow talent in America.

 

  • Julian Alssid, Chief Workforce Strategist, College for America at Southern New Hampshire University
    College for America is an accredited, nonprofit college dedicated to making a college degree achievable for every working adult: flexibly scheduled, uniquely applicable, competency-based education for just $2,500 a year (or less).

 

  • Dr. Carla Brodley, Dean of the College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
    As career goals can shift and interests expand, new opportunities arise, industries change, and technology advances. Whether your undergraduate degree was in the sciences or liberal arts, and whether you’re a recent college graduate or an experienced professional, ALIGN offers you a transition into some of the most dynamic industries across the globe. Our one-of-a-kind ALIGN (Accelerated Link to Industry through Northeastern’s Global Network) master’s degree programs provide you with the knowledge and experience necessary to shift your career into this high-demand field.

 

  • Cathleen Finn, IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, New England Manager
    Now serving four classes of students, P-TECH continues to chart new territory in the reform of secondary and postsecondary education in the United States. As the first school in the nation that connects high school, college, and the world of work through college and industry partnerships, we are pioneering a new vision for college and career readiness and success. With a unique 9-14 model, the goal for our diverse, unscreened student population is 100% completion of an associate degree within six years.

 

  • Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, Director of Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology and Executive Director of the Center for Next Generation Manufacturing
    The Center for Next Generation Manufacturing creates a seamless pathway, with no barriers or loss of earned credits, for students transitioning from a two-year college to a four-year program at partnering colleges and universities. The center is directed by the Connecticut College of technology, which itself is an online learning platform serving all 12 of Connecticut’s Community Colleges. The Center identifies skills and practices in the manufacturing sector and ties curriculum directly to the needs of industry in order for students to be prepared to enter the workforce or continue to their education and learn the skills that Connecticut employers value.

 

In his welcome remarks, Jim Brett of the New England Council also highlighted a recently released report on Advanced Manufacturing and referenced the opportunity for talent in this field as well.

Innercity Weightlifting – Kendall Square’s Newest Gym!

Innercity Weightlifting – Kendall Square’s Newest Gym!

For the past few years, I have been involved with wonderful organization called Innercity Weightlifting (ICW). ICW works with Boston youth, who are at the greatest risk for violence, and teaches them to become personal trainers–getting them off the streets, into the gym and earning a living. As an avid gym goer, and Greater Boston resident, I instantly connected with their mission and have been a client ever since.

The trainers at ICW have taught me new so many skills–I’m especially focused on my breathing during each movement–and have motivated me to press through each workout. During my workouts, I have been stunned to learn that many of the trainers and I grew up about 5 miles apart and yet we have experienced very different sides of Boston.  I’m so glad that ICW has connected me to these students—and now it is time to connect Kendall to them.

On May 19, ICW officially opened their new gym in Kendall Square. I signed up for my intro package of 4 sessions and you should too!  As a self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast/addict, I love that I can support a good cause and get a great workout in at the same time.  Or you can try a free workout on the Greenway this summer!

Jon Feinman, founder of ICW spent some time with me and answered a few questions about ICW and the new gym location.  Check out our conversation (and a peek at the gym) below.

Citizen Schools Honors Microsoft Employees for Their Service

Sam Powers and Jean-Yves Ntamwemezi with students Picture2

Here at Microsoft, our team is all about civic engagement. But civic engagement becomes tricky. First of all, not everyone has the access and tools to be able to be engaged. And secondly, how do you teach something like civic engagement?

That’s where our nonprofit partner Citizen Schools comes in. On Thursday afternoons during the school year, there is an exciting energy coming from our conference rooms on the 11th floor at Microsoft. If you walk by these rooms, you will see middle school students building robots, having fun and learning about math all at the same time. Microsoft is proud to partner with Citizen Schools to host Boston Public Schools students for these classes and even prouder to recognize the phenomenal employees that take time out of their busy day to host these classes.  Citizen Schools will honor the Microsoft employees who teach the Citizen School classes: Sam Powers, Jean-Yves Ntamwemezi, Brian Conley, and Eric Frackleton.

Citizen Schools’ mission is to close the opportunity gap for low-income students. Americorps educators and “Citizen Teachers” volunteer their time to help ALL students achieve their dreams, and this year, four Microsoft Citizen Teachers were honored as Presidential Service Award Winners! I sat down with Carolyn Roscoe, Director of Civic Engagement at Citizen Schools to learn more about their programs and the Presidential Service Award:

1. What is Citizen Schools? 

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams.

2. What is the Presidential Service Award? 

The President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) is the premier volunteer awards program, encouraging citizens to live a life of service through presidential gratitude and national recognition. This award is a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment, encourage a sustained dedication to civic participation and inspire others to make service a central part of their lives. Citizen Teachers who have taught 2, 3, 4 or more apprenticeships over the past four semesters are eligible for bronze, silver and gold levels of this award: gold award winners teach four out of the last four semesters, silver award winners teach three out of the last four semesters, bronze award winners teach two out of the last four semesters. See more at http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/ and Citizen Schools 2014 blog post on PSA winners. 

3. Who from Microsoft is receiving the award and for what kind of activities?

This year, Sam Powers, Jean-Yves Ntamwemezi, Brian Conley, and Eric Frackleton are being recognized as Presidential Service Award winners. All three Microsoft employees participate in Citizen Schools apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships are semester-long hands-on learning projects led by volunteer experts, called Citizen Teachers. Volunteers help children connect what they learn in school to the real world, and get excited about opportunities for their futures. The apprenticeship culminates in a presentation, where students teach back what they’ve learned. Jean-Yves and Sam Powers have led Robotics Apprenticeships utilizing Lego Robots to teach students programming skills and the powerful potential of technology; students design, build, and program robots to complete simple tasks and race through complex mazes. Brian Conley and Eric Frackleton have taught Game Theory Apprenticeships; through their class, students utilize mathematical techniques – like probability and  mean, median, mode – to win at games of chance.

4. How can people get more involved in Citizen Schools? To learn more about Citizen Schools and how you can help connect students to discover and achieve their dreams, visit www.citizenschools.org/volunteer.