HAIFA, ISRAEL - On Sunday, June 13, the IBM Haifa Labs marked the end of the first semester of its community service project, a youth education program attended by forty students from junior high schools in the Greater Haifa area.
The program, which began in January 2004, was devised by the IBM Haifa Labs management to go beyond simple checkbook philanthropy. In a survey performed in the fall of 2003, many employees expressed their interest in taking part in a long-term community project, in addition to the short-term projects that take place at regular intervals in the labs. Throughout the past six months, IBM Haifa Labs researchers, developers, and employees have contributed their expertise and time to the program, which took place in the IBM Haifa Labs site on the campus of the University of Haifa.
The program brought teens from the after school programs of the Association for Change in Education to the Haifa research facility several times a month. The meetings included lectures introducing the teens to advanced technologies, hands-on computer workshops, and individual and group coaching sessions with Haifa Labs employees. Nearly 50 researchers, developers, and employees from the Haifa Labs were involved in the program, as lecturers, tutors, classroom teachers, or support personnel.
The program was coordinated by Gili Aizen, administrative assistant for the Business Operations department, and Ettie Gilead, manager of the Administration Group in the IBM Haifa Labs.
The Association for Change in Education offers after-school programs for children throughout Israel. 40 Arab and Jewish students were selected from the after-school programs at nine junior high schools in and around Haifa to participate in the program. Program participants came from a variety of junior high schools in the Haifa area, including Shoham (Bat Galim); Almutanbi (Stella Maris); Leo Baeck (French Carmel); Bosmat (Hadar); Ironi Heh (Carmel); Dagan (Kiryat Haim); Shaked (Kiryat Haim); Ironi Gimel (Neveh Shaanan); and Alliance (Carmel).
Vered Ronen, the regional coordinator for the Association for Change in Education, said the program was a huge success. "These kids have begun to believe in themselves," she said. "Regardless of any additional knowledge they may have gained, that's the biggest accomplishment of all. I just hope we can continue, and even expand the program next year."
The teens themselves were also very grateful for the opportunity they received. Hila Carmona, an eighth grader at Dagan Junior High School in Kiryat Haim, a northern suburb of Haifa, said the last half-year had been very inspiring.
"We'll never forget this year, " Carmona said, and her friends Bat-El Malka and Hadar Haddad nodded their heads in agreement. "It's like a window on a whole new world was opened up for us. The lectures were really cool, and I especially liked the coaching sessions."
Ronen claimed the program affected the participants in many ways. "The IBM Haifa project has increased the motivation that these children have in a variety of areas. Before, they didn't have any reason to go the extra mile - now they see why its worth it."