ellohay! West Michigan

ellohay! west michigan video update, episode 1

The first rough-n-tumble installment of our video update for ellohay! west michigan. ellohay! west michigan is dedicated to making positive differences in the lives of under-served individuals within the West Michigan area through healthy, sustainable, meaningful, connections with technology.

http://www.twitter.com/ellohay

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It’s so much, but the thing is… it feels right.

Posted in organization, physical presence, pilot, planning, programs, strategy, volunteers by forgr on March 8, 2009

As it turns out, the more work that I do behind the scenes, the less time I have to share cool stuff with the outside.

I always wanted to make sure that if I was involved with an organization, it would be a priority to keep things as transparent and honest as possible. And it’s not that I’m not being honest, I just can’t do everything that needs to get done all by myself.

Right now, I’m learning so much new stuff, and all at the same time to boot:

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Nonprofit administration
Building a board of directors
Fundraising
Mission-based for-profit ventures
Building a budget
Incorporation
The details of becoming a tax exempt nonprofit organization
Special needs education methods
Grant writing

Familiarizing myself with Ubuntu, Open Office, Picassa
Donor management systems
Commercial real estate jargon

And easily 100 other new, exciting, things.

Natasha, Tom, and I have been meeting weekly to get programs fleshed out, and get a plan for the months ahead hashed out, visiting potential workshop spaces.

I have my Friday afternoons (my new dedicated ellohay! West Michigan time) jam jacked with meetings, visits, tours and conversations.

It’s so much, and it’s everywhere, but the thing is, it feels right.

OpenSolaris and Dismantling The Digital Divide For People With Disabilities

Posted in accessibility, education, programs, research, software by forgr on December 12, 2008

A recent post from Sun Federal (creators of OpenOffice, Solaris and OpenSolaris) on the digital exclusion of individuals with disabilities, information on Section 508 and a crazy statistic about unemployment.

The digital divide does not stop at mere access to IT and online information though; it is also about being able to afford access. Over 70% of blind and low vision citizens in the United States are unemployed. People with other severe disabilities have similar employment statistics. Assistive technology software costs as much as $1,095 for a screen reader that enables blind people to use their computers, which means that access to computing is out of reach for the majority of Americans with disabilities.

Read the full article here.

Brush up on Solaris, OpenSolaris, Xeon and Intel’s work with me:

Solaris

OpenSolaris

Intel’s Xeon

Section 508

GNOME Screencasts

Jaws Screen Reader

Next post: Project updates

A Conversation with Dan Balfour

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Dan Balfour, professor in the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration and a faculty fellow of the Honors College at Grand Valley State University.

We discussed the organization, the program offering and our plan to run a pilot program in a GR public school classroom. We also talked about grant seeking classes offered at the SPNA at GVSU and how volunteer work is required in the curriculum at the SNPA (think “grant-writing”, or “research-assistance” for this project… yeah).

Biggest moment of the conversation:

Marie-Claire: “So, if there was one thing that would be a grave mistake if I didn’t do during this process, if there was one piece of advice you might give to me, what would that be?”

Dan: “Don’t stop”

Thank you so for your time, advice, and resources Dan. It was great meeting you, and I hope to talk to you again soon.

Calculators

Posted in education, programs, Uncategorized by forgr on May 12, 2008

Out of curiosity, I recently attended a Grand Rapids School Board Meeting. I came in a little late, so I sat in the back.

I listened to each item on the agenda, watched while the group took a time to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo, and enjoyed hearing from several community members express their views on various items of concern.

I noticed a specific focus on tools and preparation for MEAP, SATs and ACTs from more than a few board members. Getting good scores on state and national tests are obviously a concern for this group, and in many cases, they are a major concern. Good score on MEAP determine a lot of things for a school and a school district e.g. total school scores, additional funding, overall school bill of health.

Students are allowed to use calculators on all three of these tests (MEAP, SATs and ACTs), they are encouraged to use them in fact. Scores are consistently higher when students use calculators. But in many cases, students can’t afford to buy calculators to use on these tests.

Scientific calculators currently run anywhere between $50-$100 depending on the features, but most households in Grand Rapids, MI can’t afford an extra cost like that. Many households are struggling to pay bills and get their children fed, clothed and off to school each morning.

There was one school board member that made the plea to individuals watching that evening to consider purchasing a calculator for $50 and donating it to the school district. She mentioned that she was potentially going to start a calculator drive herself.

I don’t have statistics to determine how many students are without calculators, but the fact that it was brought up during a school board meeting, means it’s a bit of a problem. Our students are under-served and cannot compete without the correct tools.

So, hey, calculators are helpful technological devices, who’s to say that earning-a-calculator isn’t a pretty good program to include in our future organization?

2 hours of community service = a new scientific calculator

What do we think? Cool, weird, good?

Mission and programs, draft

Alright. I’m going to throw this out there onto the interwebs. It’s the newest mission statement along with some of the latest program ideas. I haven’t been sitting on it for long. I’m trying to get some feedback and perhaps fail fast instead of a long, slow death.

Please note, I’m using the placeholder name, “The Tomorrow Project”, it’s not a serious name or anything, just a placeholder until we can come up with something really good.

Here goes nothin’:

The Tomorrow Project utilizes existing resources in the community to provide opportunities for individuals and communities through individualized and focused interactions with technology.

Some of our programs include:

Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, 10 hours of community service gets you a laptop computer, orientation classes and general education

Student Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, collective of 50 hours of community service from your class at your school or in your community, gets you, your classmates and your teacher, laptop computers, training, education, and tech support

Tomorrow Box Tech Support
10 hours of community service gets you and your Tomorrow Box life-time tech support from a certified Geek Next Door

Tech Support Mentoring
Hands-on mentoring program that matches technology professionals and underserved individuals to teach, understand, and implement basic tech support skills

Geek Next Door Training and Certification
Tech support training for young volunteers and students of the geeky persuasion. Graduates get their own laptop, office hours, a tech manual, business cards, and the opportunity to engage in one-on-one tech support with people in the community

Tech Education
100-Level classes, centralizing and providing a schedule for free introductory classes and workshops from existing community resources.

Thoughts?