Empowerment Through Technology: A Journey

By Lori Forte Harnick, general manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

 Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (center) and Lori Forte Harnick, General Manager of Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs (fourth from left), on stage during the commitment announcement

At the age of 18, Thuy Pham found herself moving from low-end job to low-end job, living on her own and struggling to make ends meet while taking a few college courses to try to get ahead. This tale is all too familiar, unfortunately, and like many other young people facing similar challenges, Thuy had to drop her classes to focus simply on day-to-day survival.

But, here’s where Thuy’s story takes a new turn…riding the bus home from work one evening, exhausted and discouraged about the life she had hoped to build for herself, Thuy spotted an ad for Year Up – a nonprofit that offers IT skills training and internships for youth at risk of falling through the cracks and into a downward spiral of poverty and hopelessness. In this ad, Thuy spotted an opportunity to take a new path on her journey, one that would help her not only to survive, but possibly…just possibly...to thrive.

 Year Up student Thuy Pham is currently interning at Microsoft to build her IT and technical skills

Today, Thuy is completing her “Year Up” – a 12-month course of study that includes an internship in Microsoft’s IT department, ready to take her new skills and job experience out into the thriving IT job marketplace, where chances are pretty good that she’ll be greeted eagerly by the growing number of companies seeking employees with IT skills.

Thuy’s journey is one of millions that Microsoft is proud to support through our global YouthSpark initiative, which matches young people around the world with opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship.

Today, at the Clinton Global Initiative America event in Denver, Colorado, I had the honor of presenting a commitment to increase Microsoft’s actions to empower American youth to capture theiropportunities for employment in the IT sector. Not only are we increasing our internship program with Year Up, we are also expanding our Job Shadow partnership program with Junior Achievement and expanding the availability of YouthSpark Summer Camps at Microsoft retail stores across the U.S.

 A Junior Achievement job shadow event at the University Village Microsoft Store in Seattle

 Together, these three programs provide a continuum of educational opportunities for youth throughout their development – from ages 8 through 18 and beyond -- so that they can imagine and experience the opportunities that await them in the IT field, and so that they can write their own stories about their journeys of empowerment…of survival…and of success.

To learn more about resources and opportunities for youth, please visit the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub...and tell us your story, too.

You can follow Clinton Global America at this Livestream link.