Someone we knew who had worked at Robbie Stephens described why he was willing to make 1/3 of his previous salary to work at a girl's school in the Mission. He said, this is my "second half." He'd done quite well, and it was time to do something really good. It was time to make good on everything that they'd told their kids about giving back.
So he took the job as CFO at Immaculate Conception Academy, a girls high school where 85% of the kids have family incomes of less than $32,000/year. They'd started a program whereby the school sends their student out to work one day a week. The companies that participate make a donation of about $8,500 for a student to intern once a week for the school year. This program reduces tuitions substantially, enabling many kids to get a quality education that likely otherwise would not have.
The intern we got, a nice girl who was the first in her family on her way to college, came to our office one day. She hadn't told anyone at school, but the day before, she found her dad in his bedroom--he'd had a heart attack. He died later that night. She showed up for work on time. It only took us a few minutes to figure out what had happened. We drove her home and let the school know. That afternoon, we did the only other thing we really could do--we paid the balance on her tuition, and set up a small scholarship to help her with college. It was small to us. She is in college now.
A few weeks after that, the school's (overpaid) IT person and technology teacher quit. She gave a few weeks' notice, but was leaving mid-semester, and finding another teacher would be more than tough.
This turned out to be a perfect chance to make a difference again. We agreed to take on the teaching position, and also handle all of the IT work for less than 2/3 of what it was costing them before. We estimated that we could do as much as the previous person was doing in less than half the time. We were right, and then some. The challenge then became figuring out how much more we could give beyond what they were paying for.
In the last few years, whenever we have had someone on the bench, we've said, "Go to ICA." We've worked with the school to get grants, and now have replaced almost every computer in the school. We have also refurbished the old computers, sending them home with kids. We've fixed systems that had been broken for years (or in some cases, had never worked). They have new servers, applications that work, and a network that doesn't stop working when it gets hot.
We've added cool technology to many of the classrooms, and introduced ideas from schools where PTAs help create leaps in technology. We keep a constant dialog with the school to keep them moving forward on what can only be described as a minimal budget.
The class. That was a shining moment for us. A few of us stepped up and took the class on for the remainder of the year. We revised the curriculum, making it more appropriate for the seniors, many of whom had not yet achieved Algebra II. On one side, we were surprised by the technical knowledge the students were lacking. At the same time, though, they had abilities to use the Internet and cell phones that challenged our thinking and ability to teach-there were times when they knew more than we did. We approached the class in a way that played to their strengths, and also prepared them for potential careers in the Bay Area, giving them some general understanding of technology, computers, and how they work in businesses. We also gave them practical information and a real chance at getting a job with real career potential.
Over the past few years, we've continued to have students at our office (and would encourage others to do so, too-the students are hard-working, great kids who want to work and learn). We've also continued to help them do great things to improve the technology at the school. Our most recent intern had her choice of schools and programs, including offers of scholarship money, and is going to be pre-med at UC Merced this fall. We're very proud of her.