(Contest Nominee) OpenWorld Learning Helping to Boost School Success in Denver through Technology

OWL is one of seven nonprofits nominated in Citywide Banks CHARITY HAND-UP CONTEST taking place on Facebook from November 2-22, 2015. The public is invited to vote for a nominee and enter prize drawings. $8,000 in cash donations will be split between the charities based on the voting results. CLICK HERE for voting page.

A 2014 PEW Research Center report found that 84% of US households owned a computer. However, the study also found that computer ownership and Internet connectivity varied greatly by area. For example, in low-income Denver neighborhoods such as Edgewater, Globeville and South Watkins, only 47% of school-age child have access to computers at home. This puts those students at a big disadvantage for learning. Colorado nonprofit, OpenWorld Learning (OWL), was established to reverse this trend. OWL is one of seven Colorado nonprofits nominated in the Citywide Banks Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place November 2-22, 2015.

OWL seeks to bridge this digital divide by providing free summer camps and afterschool programs to Title 1 students in grades 3 through 8 that teach computer and Internet skills, computer coding, animation and robotics. It also provides each student who completes OWL’s intermediate technology program their own computer to take home. Students also get the opportunity to receive a tablet and other technology related items by continuing with OWL programs.

Having a computer at home not only helps the student, but also helps the whole family become more technologically savvy. “Students can share with their families and teach their parents or siblings the power of technology,” says Andrew Castillo, OWL Development Manager.

Additionally, but equally as important as the organization’s technology programs, OWL provides a safe after school environment, with a healthy snack for kids in many high crime neighborhoods.  “We don’t just offer technological success, we focus on the child’s well-being on the whole,” says Castillo.

Castillo notes that most youth crime in Denver occurs between 3pm and 6pm, and that by providing a safe environment for the kids to learn about technology and have a healthy snack, they are not only teaching them valuable skills, they area also removing them from potentially dangerous situations.

Chris Meyers, a social entrepreneur and former elementary school teacher, started OWL in 2000. He became aware that many kids who qualified for free or reduced lunch were taking advantage of free lunch programs offered over the summer at their elementary schools, but that the computer labs in those schools remained unused during this time. Knowing how important computer skills were to the emerging workforce, and also understanding that kids in low-income neighborhoods often were not introduced to technology in the same way as their more affluent peers, he opened a free technology-focused summer camp using these computer labs for students in grades 3 through 5.

Now OWL programs are in 17 elementary and middle schools, either as an afterschool program, a summer camp or as in-school elective courses (in a few middle schools).

OWL also offers a student peer-to-peer leadership program where students who excel are selected to help their peers who are not as quick to catch on to the program. These peer leaders are given a little extra guidance in public speaking, communication skills and “hard and soft” social skills to help them in the classroom, and throughout their life.

“We aim to support children’s academic success and provide as many resources as possible for them to succeed in school and beyond,” says Castillo.

As for volunteer opportunities, OWL encourages career exploration and is always looking for professionals and corporations in the technology field to either open their workspace to children to see the job opportunities that are available with STEM (science technology engineering math)-based skills, or to make a presentation to the children.

Additionally, OWL often needs volunteers for office and special event help. Financial donations are always welcome, as well as in-kind donation’s such as sports equipment, art supplies, prepackaged snacks, laptop computers, tablets and grocery cards.

If OWL Receives Most Votes in Contest
A $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks would provide a full year of the OWL program for five students to learn computer coding, robotics, basic Internet skills and other important technical skills that will help those students succeed in school and throughout their life.

For more information on ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.OpenWorldLearning.org or follow OWL on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/OpenWorldLearning.


How to Give OWL a Hand-Up in Contest

  1. VOTE FOR OWL on contest voting page at Citywide Banks Facebook page
  2. POST A COMMENT about OWL on the Citywide Banks Facebook page
  3. SHARE posts about this contest with your family, friends, and coworkers
  4. “LIKE” OWL’s Facebook Page (the charity nominee with biggest % increase in Facebook followers during contest will receive an extra $500 donation from Citywide Banks)

How to Cast Your Vote – November 2-22, 2015
The contest is open to the general public within Colorado (non-customers welcome to participate; no purchase necessary). The easiest way to vote is online by clicking the “Charity Contest” tab on the Citywide Banks Facebook page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to “like” the bank’s Facebook page to submit a vote/entry online. One vote/entry per person is permitted during the 21-day contest. After voting on Facebook, users can use the sharing buttons to easily invite their Facebook friends to vote for their favorite charity. There is even an added bonus prize drawing for those voters that post the contest on their own Facebook timeline.

About the Citywide Banks Charity Hand-Up Contests
Citywide Banks is a 52-year-old, family operated, Colorado focused business bank that is passionate about supporting Colorado charities. Through our Charity Hand-Up Contests, seven Colorado causes are nominated by our employees to be showcased through social media and in our branches. Then, we ask the community to vote on Facebook for their favorite. Based on final vote standings, Citywide Banks splits $8,000 in donations. The charity with the most votes receives the top $5,000 donation. Contest voters can also enter to win great prizes, including dinner for two at a top Denver restaurant. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here. More contest details are at CitywideBanks.com/contest/.



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