Friday, March 20, 2009

Hope

Shortly after I began working at the Very Large Software Company, I met a dynamic program manager named Trish Millines Dziko. She went on to become the Senior Diversity Administrator for the company, and left in the late nineties to form the Technology Access Foundation,  which has the mission of "preparing underserved children of color for higher education and professional success by providing a rigorous and relevant K-12 curriculum." TAF offers everything from afterschool programs in robotics to administration of an entire school, the TAF Academy in Federal Way (WA).

Last month, I finally got around to serving as a volunteer for the afterschool TechStart program at Mount View Elementary in the Highline school district southwest of Seattle. Tech Start  
is a free, yearlong after-school program for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The focus of TechStart is providing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) enrichment to underserved children of color through project-based learning and advanced technology tools.
I work with a group of kids in 4th-6th grade working with Lego Mindstorms products to buikd robots that mimic animal behavior.

Both parents and teachers tell me that Mount View Elementary is a wonderful school, and it certainly looks it. Think of every negative stereotype you have of an inner city school, then take your mind 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The school is well-kept, clearly a place that its administration, teachers, parents, and students care about. I'm not sure what I was expecting on my first day, but it wasn't this.

As for the kids in the TAF program, they are a World War II Hollywood movie caster's dream: Somali, African-American, Latino, Jewish, and Japanese-American. Invariably in a good humor, the most difficult thing about them to manage is their ebullience. They take great interest in each others' projects. One of the older girls, a Somali, is always ready to help. At yesterday's open house, she volunteered to read the paper from the project of the very shy Japanese-American boy whose partner had not shown. The point I'm making here is that these kids are oblivious to race. I suppose that will change, but right now just being around this makes me feel great about what lies ahead for this country...

A new First Lines today, replacing the opening sentences of Joseph Heller's Catch-22...

Amy Goodman argues that bailout money should go to the people who need it most...


Spring has sprung in Lakewood...



Friday's Choice: Roy Smeck, The Wizard of the Strings, displays his virtuosity on the guitar, lap steel guitar, banjo, and ukulele. Robert Frost's Banjo has more about this amazing musician here. In the meantime:





4 comments:

ZenYenta said...

If you start out oblivious to race I think there's a good chance that whatever life throws at you, exposure to more insular attitudes just don't really take. I think that's the deal with our president. And the future is looking very good as far at that one thing is concerned. Relatively few younger people seem to see race as any big deal at all.

K. said...

I'm with you.

These kids are so in sync with each other -- it's a wonderful thing to see. When it comes to race, they just don't notice or care. It's completely irrelevant.

John Hayes said...

Hi K:

That's a great school you're describing, & good volunteer work you're doing. Thanks for posting about this. You know how I feel aboput Roy Smeck-- great array of videos!

K. said...

John and I had an interesting -- to me, anyway -- colloquy on Robert Frost's Banjo about Smeck and John McLaughlin, I mentioned that for reasons I couldn't put my finger on, their guitar virtuosity reminded me of each other. John pointed out that both manage the rare feat of astonishing speed and great musicality.