INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.



 

Joshua Kumin is the AmeriCorps VISTA Program Specialist of OpenWorld Learning. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube and learn more at www.openworldlearning.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
OpenWorld Learning (OWL) grants underserved students the opportunity to grow, explore and create through the power of digital technology. OWL addresses the digital divide by providing an engaging after-school program in Title 1 elementary schools, transforming unused computer labs into powerful learning environments. Rooted in experiential learning, OWL teaches students fundamental 21st century skills such as computer programming, graphic art and robotics.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
OWL supports children’s school success by tapping the power of digital technology and peer teaching to develop leadership and ignite a love of learning.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
To date, OWL has served more than 8,000 students, including more than 1,200 students for 118,721
contact hours in the past year alone. Currently, 68% of OWL students identify as Latino, 15% as African
American, 45% are female, and 87% qualify for the National Free or Reduced Lunch Program.

OWL students show steady positive attitude changes towards school and technology, developing greater skills in critical thinking and creativity. Compared to students not in the OWL program, children enrolled with OWL consistently demonstrate stronger learning characteristics to their teachers from the beginning of the school year to the end.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Local and national data indicate that participation in quality after-school programs leads to improved attitudes toward school, better study habits, increased attendance, and improved grades and test scores. After-school programs, such as OWL, offer critical support to working families to keep children safe and strengthen school engagement.

OWL continues the work of Seymour Papert, who is credited with creating the LOGO programming language that OWL relies on today. Seymour Papert believed in children the same way OWL believes in children: that each child is capable of both learning and teaching and that technology can be used as a tool to aid children’s understanding of the deepest ideas from science, mathematics, and the art of intellectual model building.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
The overarching goal of OWL’s programming is that underrepresented minority and female students
will demonstrate proficiency in digital literacy skills and earn a computer to help decrease the digital divide, attain creative-thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in school and life, and model positive leadership behavior for their peers and families. OWL hopes to transform school computer labs into powerful learning communities where students are encouraged to develop increasingly sophisticated projects using web-based tools.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
In the rapidly growing age of technology, we will need to future-proof our curriculum. OWL can continue to address the growing need for increased STEM education and access to technology in the Denver-metro area by utilizing the “Cloud” and other tools to ensure that our resources are easily accessible. OWL looks forward to integrating digital tools into our curriculum that will enhance student engagement.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
As a small nonprofit, we work hard to keep our programs completely free and to provide refurbished laptops to all students who complete the intermediate level of our curriculum. Meeting our annual budget is a challenge but one that is met each year by our incredibly passionate and committed staff.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
A general word of advice would be to identify and take advantage of idle resources by transforming them into powerful tools of innovation. We do this by partnering with public schools to utilize school computer labs, which would otherwise sit empty after school and during the summer. We turn labs into powerful learning communities in which children learn core skills of the 21st century.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
To meet our budget each year OWL relies on the generous support of individuals and foundations.

There are plenty of ways individuals can support the work we do, at little or no additional cost of their own. By purchasing products through AmazonSmile, buying groceries with an OWL-linked King Soopers card, taking advantage of a micro-donation service or helping out at one of our events, individuals can support our cause and make a huge difference in the lives of Denver youth! Anyone interested in volunteering or giving back can get in touch with us at info@openworldlearning.org.

 


Orapin Marketing + Public Relations serves those who serve others. We help purpose-driven companies and nonprofits tell their stories and get the attention they deserve for the impact they make by securing press coverage, strategic partnerships, and thought leadership opportunities.