February, 2020
Welcome to Cristina Connections
When asked about the challenges of digital inclusion, Tamara Gillard, executive director, Minnesota Computers for Schools (MCFS) said, “In our society right now there is almost an assumption that people have technology and access. Schools have curriculum designed to access information on line; parents need to be able to look at bus schedules, for example. The reality is there is still a lack of access whether it is in the inner city or outer areas. And that is critical.”

For 20 years, MCFS operated their project in a prison, providing refurbishing and recycling training to inmates, placing thousands of computers in schools across the state. Now in Minneapolis, the organization recently received NAID certification .  “Achieving NAID certification ensures our equipment donors that MCFS is adhering to the highest standards when it comes to data security,” Tamara Gillard, executive director, explained. “Our donor’s data security is our top priority and we are excited to be able to offer NAID certified data destruction to our partners.” Check out their recent interview with Fox9 .
In addition to being NAID certified, MCFS is also R2 certified, which assures donors that every component that isn’t reused is recycled in an environmentally responsible way. This unique combination of certifications allows donors to confidently donate their equipment to MCFS, knowing that it will be processed responsibly and put to good use in the community.

“There really is a need for our program - you need a device to get by.” MCFS works with schools and educational nonprofits across the state providing technology to build up what they need while providing cost saving measures. 

In addition to technology access, MCFS provides skills training to under served individuals helping them gain the skills and confidence they need to succeed in school and begin a successful career in technology. MCFS training programs include certification courses for entry level IT positions. They will be offering CompTia A+ at their new site later this month. They strongly believe nobody should be left behind in a digitally connected world.

"We hear from cities and organizations that the IT field is one of the fastest growing areas. Providing training to individuals in the community (at no cost) to get certified opens opportunity for entry level positions.”
Graduates of the CORE: IT program have the opportunity to apply for internships at MCFS where they put their new skills to use. MCFS also offers individuals with disabilities, offenders and ex offenders hands on opportunities to hone skills working in the IT field. “One of our students recently completed certifications and got a position with the Minnesota School District as a mobile tech. We are really excited about that.” 

“We’re really excited for 2020 and the difference we can make in the community”.

MCFS is a member of AFTRR (The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse), a program of the National Cristina Foundation. AFTRR member organizations vary widely in size, organizational model, populations served, staffing and related resources and targets the elimination of the Digital Divide as their ultimate goal.
Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County's  goal is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold and that is articulated and reinforced throughout their programs

Tiffany Harris was a participant at Girls,Inc. WCCC when she was in elementary school. Coming full circle, she has worked with the organization for eight years, becoming Executive Director in 2015.

Girls Inc. programs include winter and spring camps in addition to their year round program, as well as a 10 week summer camp for 100 girls in grades K - 6.  450 girls participate on site annually. Girls Inc. also offers programs in 16 schools. Girls Inc is open to all ages and backgrounds.  

Tiffany shared that during the summer camp program, the older girls journal. Through this they learned one of the participants and her siblings were in an abusive and neglectful situation. She shared details with her leader, who was able to talk her through a difficult time, and gave her a hug. She wrote “that hug made me feel safe and loved.” Girls Inc. is mandated to report and learned that a relative also had concerns. The children are now living safely with their grandmother. “Our projects can truly change a life and girls feel safe enough to open up to us. That’s why I do what I do.”
Technology donations received through the Cristina Network support academic development : STEM programs, homework support, economic and media literacy, as well as college funding opportunities and completing applications for scholarships.

The College Bound Girls program objective is to educate and mentor girls to prepare them for higher education. “We are here to empower our girls and give them opportunities they may not otherwise have”. They participate in college tours, assemblies, field trips and other enrichment activities. 

Through a community partnership with the City of Richmond’s YouthWORKS program,  16 - 25 girls get assistance with summer job placements. About eight of these youth participants work at Girls Inc. camps.

“We want the girls to be able to live up to their full potential.” Girls Inc. is a community for girls - by girls.
Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through a network of local organizations in the United States and Canada. With local roots dating to 1864 and national status in the U.S. since 1945, Girls Inc. responds to the changing needs of girls and their communities through research-based programs and advocacy that empower girls to reach their full potential and to understand, value, and assert their rights.

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