Tag Archives: youth

On her terms: Ghada Khalifa is making a social impact across the Middle East and Africa – Microsoft Life

During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, urban youth groups across Egypt came together to call attention to the variety of societal challenges their communities faced, including economic issues such as high unemployment rates and low wages. With such a pervasive threat to the future of Egypt’s youth, major corporations began to advertise philanthropic programs that aimed to help.

Ghada Khalifa, who was Microsoft’s philanthropy lead for Egypt at the time, noticed a slew of campaigns aimed at supporting the people of Egypt. Despite these commitments, she said, life wasn’t necessarily getting better for the average urban Egyptian; tools and technology that would lead to jobs and empower people never materialized.

“Little to no money was put toward actual community development,” Khalifa said.

Microsoft wanted to take a different approach, using its expertise and technology resources to empower Egyptians so they could then—in turn—enact lasting change. The company assessed the situation, uncovered opportunities to truly add community value, and committed to creating programming that would prepare Egyptians to transform their communities through long-term solutions, Khalifa said.

This was the type of integrity that Khalifa had dared to wish for when she first interviewed with Microsoft for a role in antipiracy in 1996.

Khalifa had challenged her interviewer to better understand how antipiracy was being managed in Egypt. “In my religion, Islam, people who copied the software were committing a sin, so I was passionate about the company’s efforts to prevent it,” she said. “I would never accept a role because it simply drives a company’s bottom line. I would take it on because it was what I wanted to do for my country.”

She hoped her sense of responsibility to improve life for Egyptians—and her strong convictions—would be embraced.

Khalifa had first been introduced to Microsoft years earlier, while working for a friend’s computing magazine, when she had an opportunity to interview several Microsoft employees. She was invited to visit the company’s campus and learn more about its mission, which sparked her initial admiration for the company. “It was very transformative for me,” she said of that first exposure. “It gave me a long-term vision of how tech could impact life, especially in Africa, where tech can make a huge impact on our continent.”

Now, the moment to be a part of Microsoft’s work was right in front of her. But it would have to sync with her principles. Khalifa told the hiring team that if the company did anything that was non-supportive of Egypt, she could not sign on. Her hiring manager explained that that was the passion they desired in the candidate. It turned out that Microsoft valued Khalifa’s conviction and her commitment to Egypt and her culture. She was brought on board.

It was the beginning of a fruitful partnership between Microsoft and Khalifa, who would later move into a Philanthropies role, which would ultimately help to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens.

Platform to make a difference

In response to the protests, Khalifa spearheaded and led an employment initiative to help Microsoft bring real value to the youth of Egypt. Her team looked at the community and government to identify opportunities for local youth, with the goal of reducing the unemployment rate. At the time there was a staggering growth in the youth population, while unemployment rates were nearly 10 times higher for urban youth with college educations than those who had completed only elementary school.

“We wanted to prevent them from going in a harmful direction, and encourage them toward a beneficiary one,” she said. “I wanted to provide the youth with hope and opportunity, while getting them out of poverty and preventing a stagnated future.”

Khalifa and her team partnered with the Ministry of Youth, the United Nations, universities, STEM schools, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch the initiative, part of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark program, which creates opportunities for youth around the world through technology.

The Egypt initiative kicked off in 2011, targeting underserved communities and their respective youth centers to provide IT training, web and app development courses, business training, freelance consulting company setup, and sessions on entrepreneurship. Khalifa explained that after the revolution, jobs were scarce, so the objective of her program was to create opportunity for the very youth who were in the streets during the protests.

“I spent seven months researching, attending research sessions, and meeting with a lot of the youth” to better understand the needs, then rollout the program in phases, she said.

Since 2012, the program has created 91,000 job opportunities with more than 1,400 employers in Egypt. Over 80,000 youth participants have attended career advisement sessions, and more than 400,000 youth have accessed digital, entrepreneurial, and employability skills training.

In addition to her work with the YouthSpark initiative, Khalifa was also a leader in Microsoft Egypt’s intern program. Rather than seek students from top-tier universities, she sought young adults who showed initiative, interest in tech, and came from less affluent backgrounds.

“It’s important that you allow them to innovate and drive out their capacity for leadership, then watch them excel,” she said. “We had to be willing to share the knowledge and take the risk. They learn from you, but you also learn from them.”

Khalifa—now the regional director of Microsoft Philanthropies (Middle East and Africa)—is currently working on other community development programs, using technology to address societal challenges. It’s especially exciting, she says, to be able to take this type of initiative to Sub-Saharan Africa and make an impact.

An example of such impact: across the broader Middle East and Africa region, more than 968,000 youth were upskilled through YouthSpark program activities, more than 462,000 accessed employability services, and 88,000 were connected to job opportunities in 2017 alone.

A strong foundation

“Being strong means you can stand up for what you believe is right, regardless of what others think.”

Khalifa’s father taught her this rule, which became one of the many mantras that has guided her life.

She is most grounded when she is helping others. The practice of giving back is second nature: Khalifa, born and raised in Cairo, says she was taught to always consider the welfare of others.

Her father, a former fighter pilot in Egypt, strongly believed in equality between all genders, backgrounds, and religions.

“He always encouraged us to not judge others and embrace them for who they are and to see the good in them,” she said. “When I was about 9 years old, I made a judgement about a certain sect of Islam. He was so furious that he made me read many books about other religions, not just that sect.”

Khalifa said the exercise reminded her that she is “not a god on Earth” and of the importance of being humble and respecting people of all religions and backgrounds.

As for her mother, she continues to challenge her to this day—although, Khalifa says, her mom doesn’t realize it. Khalifa laughs while explaining how her mother has this “capability of forgiving anybody for everything and never holds grudges.” As a person who is easily angered when she sees another person or an animal being treated unjustly or inhumanely, Khalifa often fights an internal battle to forgive.

“I can’t do that, but I’d love to one day,” she said.

Khalifa shuns the idea of being title driven. For her, it’s not about the position, rather it’s about the good you’ve done in the world.

“At the end of life, your position should not be measured as an output of your life. It should be about the people around you,” she said.

In her spare time

Khalifa has always been a world traveler. “I love history and archaeology, especially ancient history. I’ve enjoyed going to old monuments since I was very young and tagging along with my dad,” she said. “There’s so much wisdom. I find it impressive to see how people during that age used to think.”

Her next stop? She would love to visit China and India.

Meanwhile back home, she’s the “mom” to three Rottweilers (Star, Tarazan, and Rex) and three cats by the names of Posy, Eldu, and Lily. A staunch advocate of animal rights, Khalifa said she’s never one to back down from a fight when she’s sees an animal being harmed.

“I’m crazy about animals,” she said. “They teach humans the value of loyalty, cleanliness, calmness, and warmness.”

With her upbringing, her dedication to helping others, and her fondness of animals, Khalifa continues to embody the tenets of humility and selflessness that her parents taught her. She acknowledges that life can get busy but says one should never forget they can help and improve the world as we know it.

“Sometimes you forget humility as you go along. But, sometimes you just need to be reminded.”

4-H youth leader rocks the Hour of Code, plans to continue the movement in her community – Microsoft on the Issues

4H youth leader and Seattle Seahawk player with student in Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina, left, and Seattle Seahawks player Luke Willson participate in an Hour of Code with a student Dec. 5 at the Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, Washington.

Earlier this fall, Microsoft and National 4-H Council announced a partnership to support young people to be digital leaders, equipping them with the digital skills and other resources to help them make an even bigger, positive impact on their communities. Youth leaders are working with educators, community members and others to identify challenges their communities face, and to use technology to address those challenges.

Nora Medina, from Quincy High School in central Washington state, is working to inspire kids to learn to code, and help adults build digital skills to close the digital divide in her community. We caught up with Nora during Computer Science Education Week when she visited the Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington, alongside Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson, to coach elementary school students through their first Hour of Code. Nora and Luke used the new Minecraft tutorial for Hour of Code, called Hero’s Journey, which introduces kids to coding in a fun and engaging way. While our partnership with 4-H is wide-ranging, going beyond digital skills, computer science was the focus of this conversation with Nora:

4H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson.

How did you discover computer science?

I was introduced to coding and Code.org in middle school in an afterschool club. I started by playing with Minecraft and JavaScript. After that I got involved in Digital Tools class, which opened up more classes at my high school, where I learned web design. I realized you can do so much with your imagination and your creativity. Nothing limits you!

Why do you think learning to code is important for kids today?

Coding is everywhere! If you know coding, companies will be more inclined to hire you. You’ll have more skills to offer.

What can you tell us about your involvement with 4-H?

We’re starting a service project where the main focus is teaching adults digital skills. There’s a gap between students and parents. If we teach adults about digital skills, and why we’re on our phones so much, that can bring us closer as a community, and opens up more opportunities for parents and adults!

Microsoft is a leading supporter of Computer Science Education Week because the lack of access to computer science education threatens to widen the income gap between those who have the skills to succeed in the 21st century and those who do not, impeding students’ ability to eventually thrive in their future careers. We’re inspired by young people like Nora Medina who are stepping forward to help us, and others, address the problem.

In the United States alone, there are over 500,000 open computing jobs, however last year, less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the U.S. workforce.  Learning to code is one of the most important steps students can take to prepare themselves to fully participate in, and benefit from, our digital economy. That’s why Microsoft Philanthropies is working to help young people and adults become creators of technology, advance their careers and grow their local economies by making computer science education and digital skills available to everyone.

Learn more, and find resources to start learning to code, or to teach others, by visiting your local Microsoft Store or https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/digital-skills/hour-of-code.

Tags: Computer Science Education Week, Hour of Code, Microsoft Philanthropies, Microsoft Store

Sparking opportunity for all youth around the globe

Sometimes all it takes is a spark: that one class, that one teacher, that one project which makes a difference. It can change the lives of young students who may have had little opportunity to excel, or perhaps even to complete high school, to enable them to become successful engineers, entrepreneurs or computer scientists. This is the inspiration behind our global YouthSpark initiative.

Last September, Satya Nadella announced a three-year, $75 million YouthSpark investment to help every young person get the opportunity to learn computing skills and computer science.


Click here to learn more about our partners.

Today we are providing an update by announcing YouthSpark grants to 100 nonprofit partners in 55 countries. In turn, our partners will leverage the power and energy of local schools, businesses and community organizations to create new and engaging opportunities for students to explore computer science. These partners will teach students valuable skills to help them prepare for and succeed in jobs that are open today across industries, along with new jobs that will be created. Our partners will build upon the work that Microsoft already has underway, including our commitments to computer science education through programs like Hour of Code with Code.org, BBC micro:bit and TEALS.

Still, much more progress must be made. Despite the need for basic computational thinking skills across all subject areas, in the U.S. less than 25 percent of high schools offer computer science classes. Only 2.5 percent of U.S. high school graduates go on to study computer science in college, and of this small percentage, only 1 in 5 computer science graduates is female. Globally, some countries have made computer science a mandatory subject in secondary schools, but we know firsthand through our own work that far too few schools around the world provide courses in computing. We also recognize that governments play a critical role in continued progress on this important issue. We continue to work with policymakers around the world to support the policy and funding necessary to expand computer science into public education. In the U.S., we’re proud to support Computer Science for All, a national effort created by President Barack Obama to give all American students the opportunity to learn computer science in school.

We know that no single organization or company can close the global computer science education skills gap. That is why we are committed to work in partnership with others. Our efforts have focused on leveraging longstanding community relationships of more than 100 nonprofit partners around the world to create access to computer science, and also to break down barriers and stereotypes that are keeping large populations of youth out of computer science education — even when the opportunities are available.

Later this month, we will bring together some of our local nonprofit partners from around the world during a YouthSpark Summit at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. We’ll learn, discuss, share ideas and develop action plans so that, together with our partners, we can continue to improve and bring better knowledge and expertise to local communities.

Every young person should have an opportunity, a spark, to realize a more promising future. Together with our nonprofit partners, we are excited to take a bold step toward that goal today. Learn more about our nonprofit partners here, and visit YouthSpark.com for more information on our global initiative to make computer science education accessible for all young people. ‪

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Sparking learning at YouthSpark summer camps, 75M devices running Windows 10, and a regular cellphone turns into a 3D scanner — Weekend Reading: Aug. 28 edition

YouthSpark, education, summer camps

At age 8, Allyse Nguyen is among the youngest students in the Smart Game Design class in Bellevue, Washington. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

With summer waning, most students are just getting ready to head back to school. But there are some who decided to continue learning over the break, and specifically, to dive into the world of coding. Read on for this story and more from the week at Microsoft, where the phrase “summer slowdown” is an oxymoron.

Around the U.S. and in Canada, children ages 8 and up spent part of their summer attending YouthSpark Summer Camps, held at 76 Microsoft stores. The camps, which will also be offered this fall, teach children how to code, create games, use their creativity and imagination, and learn to think critically. “I like that sometimes coding can be simple, but it can also do so much more,” says Andrew Stephens, 11, an incoming sixth grader.

YouthSpark, education, summer camps

Andrew Stephens, left, with dad Andy Stephens, was among the students who learned about coding at YouthSpark Summer Camps. (Photo courtesy of Andy Stephens)

Meanwhile, 80 teens took part in a day-long STEM exploration event at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, where there was no shortage of big ideas and passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Microsoft partnered with Seattle nonprofit iUrban Teen for the day of technology immersion, which included a diverse group of speakers from Microsoft, the White House, Yale University and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “It was really cool, seeing how people have all these great ideas for fun and useful things,” said 14-year-old Geno L. White II. “We have the same dreams that they do.”

education, STEM, iUrban Teen STEM

Geno L. White II (left) and Ceon Duncan-Graves check out a ball that was created with a 3D printer at The Microsoft Garage during the Microsoft iUrban Teen STEM Exploration Day. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

75 million devices are now running Windows 10, a stat shared by Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing for Windows and Devices, on Twitter, along with other tidbits of Windows 10 trivia, such as: Windows 10 is available in 192 countries, virtually every country on the planet; more than 122 years of gameplay have streamed from Xbox One to Windows 10 devices; and in response to “Tell me a joke,” Cortana has told over half-a-million of ‘em since launch.

Yusuf Mehdi, Windows 10

Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing for Windows and Devices.

A new Microsoft Research project delivers high-quality 3D images in real time, using a regular mobile phone. And it takes about the same effort as snapping a picture or shooting a video. Researchers say the system, called MobileFusion, is better than other methods for 3D scanning with a mobile device because it doesn’t need any extra hardware, or even an Internet connection, to work. That means scientists in remote locations, or hikers deep in the woods, can capture their surroundings using a cellphone, without a Wi-Fi connection. Sweet.

Two inexpensive, Internet-enabled feature phones, the Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM, were announced this week. The phones are designed to connect more people to the Internet, and let them capture and share their photos with others using apps such as GroupMe by Skype, Facebook, Messenger and Twitter. The Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM will be available globally in select markets, starting in September, priced at $37 before local taxes and subsidies.

Nokia 222, feature phones

The Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM.

Cortana took on more workload this week: She’s now available as an app in beta to all Android phone users. The personal digital assistant will also be coming to iOS devices, as was shared in May. The app for Android can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone (even tell jokes).

Run for a touchdown, run circles – or both. Get the Xbox One EA Sports Madden NFL 16 Bundle, which includes a 1TB hard drive, a full-game download of Madden NFL 16 and one year of EA Access. It’s now available for $399 from Microsoft and other retailers. And this week’s “App of the Week” is “Running Circles,” a free game that’s new to the Windows Store, and tests players’ timing and reflexes on a constantly changing, spinning and dizzying path.

games, Windows Phone

“Running Circles”

This week we met Wanderson Skrock, a young man who grew up in a rough neighborhood of Brazil and was in jail twice before age 17. However, Skrock turned his life around with technology and now he’s teaching digital literacy classes in Brazil’s correctional institutions and working with Microsoft YouthSpark.

That’s it for this edition of Weekend Reading! We’ll see you next week!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff