For the past six months, 40 Haifa area junior high school students in danger of dropping out came to the IBM Haifa Labs several times a month for technology presentations, workshops, and coaching sessions. The IBM badges the young people received allowed them entrance not just to the building, but to the world of technology that might otherwise have been closed to them.
The students all attend after-school programs run by the Association for Change in Education, and were handpicked by Association representatives to attend the IBM program.
In mid-June, IBM Haifa marked the completion of the half-year project, its third annual Youth Education Program, with a day of learning, celebration, and awards.
Dozens of Haifa researchers and staff members volunteered for the program, presenting such topics as collaboration technologies, voice applications, and machine translation, or delivering a variety of workshops in areas such as video editing, Visual Basic, and English. Many Haifa volunteers coached small groups of students, working for several months on a number of projects, such as robotics, Web site development, and game building, which were presented on the final day of the program.
The commencement ceremony was attended by representatives of the Association and the Haifa Municipality, who praised the IBM program.
Zvia Edelstein, director of the after-school program at the Bosmat Junior High School in Haifa, said that the contribution made by the IBM Haifa Labs was invaluable.
"It's hard for me to describe how much the children have received from this program," she said. "It can't be measured in money, numbers, or time. You've given these kids the motivation to learnand that's something they'll benefit from for a long time."
All the students who finished the program received certificates of completion. Haifa Municipality representative Liat Balmass handed out awards and prizes to the best student from each school, based on the assessment of the IBM coaches, after-school program staff, and teachers.
For several IBM Haifa volunteers, this was the third consecutive year they have been involved in the program. Shmuel Ur presented a lecture in the first year of the program, and has served as a coach for the last two year. He said that the program's main benefit is its ability to stimulate the students.
"It's hard to see the immediate effects of the program, but I think it motivates the kids to work harder in school," he said. "It gives them an idea of what's possible."