City Year and Microsoft: Partnering to Make a Difference in Urban Schools


Michelle DideroMy name is Michelle Didero, and I serve on the Microsoft Team at Cardozo Senior High School. Earlier this week I had the honor of being a panelist for Microsoft’s YouthSpark presentation at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, DC. At the event, the Brookings Institution presented research about urban education in Washington, DC and then held panel discussion and Q&A session. The conversation focused on what companies, non-profit organizations and community members can do together to address the disparities evident in Washington, DC public schools, and how to better prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As a City Year corps member at Cardozo Senior High School, I was able to shed light on the challenges that young students in my school face.

Though the obstacles ahead are very real, I left the presentation feeling energized and more prepared to contribute to a movement. A movement that will change the lives of young people by giving them resources to excel and instilling in them a sense of self-worth.  Every audience member and fellow panelist at the YouthSpark presentation was clearly invested in finding a solution to a single common issue. The presentation provided a forum to share ideas and information with one another, helping companies and organizations create a cohesive plan to make our students qualified for positions in the STEM labor force.

Seeing students in the audience during the event reminded me of a bright student I work with in my Geometry class, named Jacob. In the beginning of the school year, Jacob often came 20 minutes late to class and never turned in his homework, which quickly deteriorated his class grade. Over the semester, we began working together during class and I quickly discovered that he was incredibly smart. Slowly but surely, Jacob was in his seat by the time the bell rang, and though he resisted bringing home assignments, he would finish them during lunch in order to get full credit. Though I was sad to part with Jacob at the end of the semester, I was glad to see that he got a B in Geometry class. Recently, Jacob has been asking me about job opportunities and is exuding more confidence, which has been rewarding to witness.

The last sentence of YouthSpark’s mission statement states, “We want to empower youth to change their world.” City Year’s new partnership with Microsoft has been wonderful because their goals for supporting students’ academic and professional growth strongly resonate with those of City Year. In the same way that City Year corps members aid students from the ground level, Microsoft’s team can approach issues from a macro-perspective. I believe that for this very reason, Microsoft’s support will play a crucial role in our students’ lives—in lives like Jacob’s. Investing in our students’ education and success will help them realize their full potential and drive them to invest in their own education and careers. The Cardozo City Year team and students like Jacob are truly looking forward to the future endeavors that our partnership with Microsoft will bring.

Read additional coverage of the event on the Microsoft Corporate Citizenship blog.

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