This morning I had the opportunity to spend an hour at the Sacramento New Technology High School, speaking with the young students working on their presentations for a robotics and programming project. First of all, let me say I was very grateful for the chance to pay back into the public school system. Second, this is a very cool project and an awesome opportunity for these kids to learn a little C and build Lego Mindstorms robots! Finally, while I was there, I also got to experience first-hand how difficult it can be for some children to take advantage of these opportunities. More on this last point later.
I am a card-carrying nerd. If you look in my wallet, you’ll find my membership card for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), which I proudly and affectionately tell my friends and co-workers is the largest social organization for computing professionals in the world. Admittedly, that may be an exaggeration, but I dare you to prove me wrong. The Sacramento ACM Chapter has identified mentoring high school students one of its top priority, and I am proud to be both a member of this chapter as well as one of the lucky volunteer mentors.
In addition to being a card-carrying nerd, I am also a California State employee working on the modernization of the State’s Child Welfare case management system. At CWDS, we don’t work directly with the children, but we work with, and support those who do. Case workers have a very difficult job, and I hear the burnout rate for the typical State social worker is only 12 months. It cannot be easy to experience the very worst that life can throw at a child (over and over), and it is my daily hope that my skills, knowledge, and experience can be put to good use making their work lives easier, resulting in better outcomes for at-risk children.
I have my own children, and hope, as a parent, that they are treated with as much love and respect out in the world as we try to give them at home. I admire and appreciate the work done by our teachers, and want to do what I can to enhance the learning experience and enrich their education where possible. I know technology, and I’m excited about its many different potentials to improve the quality of life for the public and provide a stable career for its professionals. Perhaps, sharing my passion for technology with young people will encourage them to take it up and use it as a means to write their own stories, rather than be subject to the uncertain tides of fortune.
Call me an idealist….
I want to build a better world for my children, as well as those of my community, which is why I volunteer, and why I joined ACM. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct has been a light that I have tried to steer by for nearly twenty years. Having the chance to mentor young people allows me to put my values directly into practice.
You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Finally, and without going into too much detail, I met a young man today who I’ll call William (not his real name). William is working on an ambitious project. He was a little shy, and withdrawn, but on speaking with him I sensed a spark of intelligence. I was very impressed by what he was building, and I did my best to get him to talk about his project. He seemed unsure how to proceed with his slide presentation; we spoke for a few minutes, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in the conversation. As soon as I moved to the next team, William laid his head down on his desk and withdrew from the classroom.
William’s story is one he will have to share himself, but he is one of our children at society’s edge. He needs extra support, and I hope to have the chance to return and spend more time with him. With some positive energy, and community support, he may be one of our next technology leaders. “Society” is doing it’s best for William, and I hope that is enough. I suspect, however, it will take more than a great school, and a caring teacher… it will take a village, made up of you and me.
Please take a minute to explore ways to volunteer in your community, and if you have space in your home and your heart, please look into being a foster parent. There are a lot of children who need a good family home, but many of them are stuck in group homes or other bad situations. I will continue to volunteer my time to mentor children, and hope that I have the chance to help our children on the edge.
Be involved. Care. Take Action.