Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon August 12, 2013 at 12:23 AM EST
Rebecca Garcia is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work to expand opportunities for young learners from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.
Growing up we aren't given many choices. We're told what to wear, to say please and thanks, that two plus two equals four. Later in life we spend so much time trying to figure out how to re-ignite that spark that's dimmed, to have that fire that keeps you up at night. For me, the stick was the idea of helping people and the stone was technology.
The fire didn't begin until I realized the full potential of technology, but it wasn't the technical know-how...it was the people who believed in me and pushed me to learn more and those who still do. My journey began when people invested in me, as a 14 year old girl at MIT's iD Tech Camps, an early chance to explore my passions. And later to teach there to help other youth find theirs. But a summer camp wasn't enough, though the open learning environment stuck with me as I joined Do Something as a developer. Jumpstarting my career early in 2011 allowed me to be a part of a platform that leads youth to real offline action, not just in spirit but in measurable data, not just tens of thousands, but millions of teens across the US. Out of Do Something, CoderDojo NYC began as a side volunteer project, organizing mentors and youth for monthly sessions for web, game and app development; today it's so much more. We're proud to showcase the idea behind inclusion, with ethnic diversity and a 50:50 gender ratio of young men and women learning together.
There's a 9 year old girl who we affectionately call "Little Rebecca" who attends CoderDojo NYC. She's been with us since the beginning, and we've had the chance to see her grow. Her parents told us before attending she had never heard of computer science, and after a few months she had asked them "is this something you can do for a living?" This year she made her first Android app, and presented it in front of industry professionals. My favorite thing though, isn't her accomplishments, but hearing the excuses when she can't attend, "sorry she's at space camp" and "she is building her first robot for a science fair". I knew that if I could positively impact one girls' life--imagine what that meant bringing together others across the globe.
Joining the Hello World Foundation means helping bring together 200 CoderDojo chapters in 23 countries, not as training schools for youth but as places that serve to inspire and help the next generation become even better dreamers, thinkers and builders through technology. After starting in Ireland, it's spread like wildfire. The idea of open STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) coding clubs for youth everywhere from Mexico, Japan, Slovenia, Scotland and anywhere in between. They're led by volunteers who mentor, who don't just teach, they inspire.
We're here on this planet to make meaningful connections, and they are worth more than any monetary donation. Worth more than a 'handout', or being treated differently as a 'hand-up'--we want 'handshakes', to be included. Some say there are limiting factors, whether it’s the economy, wars, or political turmoil. I say that this gives us opportunities, especially for young people, to be creative, to innovate and solve these issues with the help of technology in faster and smarter ways. Our digital footprint has more impact now than ever, and a line of code can be a catalyst for social change.
I currently work at the Hello World Foundation an Irish non-profit that aims to inspire the next generation of creators through technology.
Rebecca Garcia is the Co-Founder of CoderDojo NYC.
- Posted byon August 9, 2013 at 12:25 PM EST
Robert Davis is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in making government more transparent and accountable through technology.
I live in Florida, and although I love the internet and technology, I'll be first to say my home state is not known for being a leader in the “tech scene.” Once in a while something really cool will happen here though, as it did in 1981. An IBM team in Boca Raton started work on project “Acorn,” or what would become the first personal computer, popularizing the term “PC.” Surprisingly, Florida actually has a notable technical history from the Flagler Railroad to NASA’s Cape Canaveral Space Center. While growing up here I thought much different about my state; the place was hot, slow moving and isolated. I always tried to learn as much as I could about other places, longing to be where "it" was happening.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel throughout my youth and in recent years. As a junior in college, again looking outside my state, I applied for an internship in San Francisco. It was a new nonprofit I’d never heard of before in the tech scene and government space, something I was very interested in better understanding. Somehow I got a phone interview, and I was lucky enough to spend a summer interning at Code for America. During this time I was exposed to a seemingly endless array of smart people and ideas. It challenged my perspective like never before and I wondered why Florida couldn’t have its own version of this inventive environment.
I was surrounded by these innovators and creators who knew how to “make” like I could only imagine. Not only did these teams invent things, they had a genuine need to exist and they did it in the most intuitive and understandable way imaginable. I also was exposed to new ideas for organizing locally. CfA had initiated “Brigades,” or self-organized community teams of citizens around the United States, who meet regularly to help their cities grow more open (usually leveraging technology in some way). This reaffirmed my hypothesis that Florida, and every other state for that matter, had substantial room for improvement civically.
To be honest, I've felt stressed and helpless about the problems we face collectively as communities for some time. Now however, from what I’ve experienced firsthand, a new era of the “citizen” is emerging. Community groups and social clubs, much like CfA brigades, have taken root and thousands of people are learning how to access, visualize, and share information about the places they live. Even my home state is making a comeback in the tech scene. Led by a surge in coworking, startup companies and access to the internet, events and conferences are springing up like never before.
A precursor to this new engaged “citizen” is a supportive environment for learning new things, and I’m ecstatic to see Florida going through this transformation. Places like The LAB Miami and groups like The Knight Foundation have created ample opportunities for feedback and discussion, a much needed part of puzzle. More people across the country are beginning to understand that participating in the process is better than just casting a vote or watching the news broadcast. Connecting online in addition to offline, can allow us to become more engaged and informed when it is convenient. This reinforces activities like voting or attending council meetings. No longer is the give-and-take of taxes for government services satisfactory. The citizen to government relationship is usually one riddled with long lines and confusion. Instead of being mad about an unjust law or confusing budget report, we can now work together to identify and begin to correct it. Check out what’s going on with projects like OpenOakland in Oakland, CA, OpenCityApps in Chicago, Illinois, and NYCBigApps in New York. These are all examples of collaboration for good.
The new “citizen” is a team of all of us. That means you too! Share what you know. Rewrite it so others can understand better. Gather likeminded people and ask questions. Learn something new about the place you live. This won’t be an easy journey, and tough questions will be brought up that some people might not like the answer to, but we can agree that we should have access to discuss this. Only when we can see what is unclear can we create the world in which we want to live. A better world can only be achieved by working together, so will you join in?
Robert Davis is a Code for America intern alumni and an avid supporter of creating civic tools with open data for the public good
- Posted byon July 31, 2013 at 3:57 PM EST
Since its earliest days, the Obama Administration has worked to improve the health and well-being of our families and our communities. From tackling childhood obesity, to combating the tobacco epidemic, to expanding access to affordable health coverage, the Administration has focused on innovative and meaningful ways to support a healthier America.
The Administration believes that prevention and public health are a top priority because they have lasting effects on the health of Americans. That’s why the Affordable Care Act provides unprecedented resources through the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support community-based strategies to prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and support public health. Communities across the country are working with their public health leaders, employers, schools and citizens and across sectors like health, transportation, housing and education, to build partnerships that promote healthy lifestyles.
The Affordable Care Act also created the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which provides federal leadership to engage states, communities, and private partners in creating a healthier America through the recommendations of the National Prevention Strategy. The Prevention Fund is supporting projects that will put the National Prevention Strategy into action, helping to move the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.
But we know that efforts to promote the public’s health and prioritize prevention happen in America’s towns and cities, in schools and parks, in churches and community centers. Every day, local leaders across America’s communities are stepping up in big ways to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to live a healthy life.
This September, the White House will host a “Champions of Change” event to celebrate these local change-agents, whose exemplary leadership is helping to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in our communities.
The event will bring together and honor extraordinary individuals who are taking innovative approaches to support longer, healthier lives in communities across the country. These leaders will be invited to the White House to celebrate their accomplishments and showcase their actions to support healthier communities.
Today, we’re asking you to help us identify these standout local leaders by nominating a Champion of Change for Public Health and Prevention by midnight on Friday, August 9th. A Champion’s work may involve:
- Supporting community and clinical prevention efforts to address chronic disease, increase education and outreach, and integrate primary and behavioral health;
- Creating healthy and safe communities by promoting healthier schools, homes, and workplaces that make the healthy choice the easy choice;
- Working to address health disparities and empower all Americans to make healthy choices by addressing health concerns that disproportionately affect certain populations;
- Strengthening public health infrastructure and improving public health’s capacity to detect and control disease and other threats;
- Increasing the uptake of important preventive services; and
- Promoting tobacco prevention,
We are looking forward to hosting this event and to highlighting the great work communities across the country are doing to advance the health and well-being of the American people.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Nominate a Prevention and Public Health Leader as a Champion of Change (under theme of service, choose "Prevention and Public Health Leaders").
Carole Johnson works at the Domestic Policy Council.
- Posted byon July 24, 2013 at 3:15 PM EST
This Friday, July 26th, marks the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a landmark law that profoundly changed our nation. On the trajectory of forming a more perfect union, the passage of the ADA in 1990 was a major step forward in keeping a key promise of the American experiment: ensuring equal opportunity for all. This is personally important to me. As an immigrant, as an African American woman, as a civil rights attorney and as a deaf person, the ADA is more than just a law. It is a concrete symbol of hope and opportunity for me, for my family and for the millions of Americans with disabilities who simply want the chance to be full and active members of our society, participants in our democracy and our economy who can be self-sufficient.
The ADA promised equal access in workplaces and educational institutions, and in the transportation required to get there. It provided for full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for those of us living with disabilities. It also gives Americans with disabilities avenues to pursue legal remedies to safeguard all of those rights. As we have learned, time and again, the only way to safeguard the hard-fought rights of the 20th century is to fight to preserve them in the 21st century. That is why President Obama has marshaled the resources of his Administration to advance the goals of the ADA so that it is not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, that's being applied all across this country.
This Thursday, July 25, the White House Office of Public Engagement will host an event from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM (EDT) to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the ADA. We invite you to participate from your communities via the live web stream at whitehouse.gov/live. Our conversation will include remarks from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz You will also have the opportunity to hear from leaders from across the federal government about some of the important work that is happening in the agencies to protect the rights of, and participation by, people with disabilities in our communities. And I am looking forward to introducing you to eight incredible young people who we will be honoring as “Champions of Change” for their advocacy efforts, their innovative projects and their embodiment of the spirit of the ADA. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. This live stream will be closed captioned.
I hope you will join us on Thursday to watch, to learn, to celebrate and to recommit ourselves to upholding and enhancing the principles of the ADA. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 11:00 am EDT on July 25th.
Claudia Gordon is an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon July 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM EST
Jeff Thompson is being honored as a Champion of Change for his work on the front lines to protect public health in a changing climate.
It wasn’t too long ago when you would rarely hear “healthcare” and “sustainability” in the same sentence. After all, many healthcare organizations thought their purpose was solely to take care of patients in a hospital or clinic. But at Gundersen Health System, headquartered in the Midwestern city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, we believe it is also our responsibility to help our patients and communities stay well, and part of that is caring for the health of the environment.
We started working on a number of projects in 2003, but in 2008 we took a hard look in the mirror. We knew that healthcare buildings are some of the most energy intensive buildings around (2.5 times more so than commercial office buildings according to the Department of Energy). We knew that our energy costs were rising at an alarming rate of $350,000 per year and growing, and those costs were being passed along to patients in the form of higher healthcare costs. We needed to take a hard look at our practices and take the necessary steps to improve our environmental impact. It was the right thing to do for our patients, our staff, and the communities we serve.
We developed our sustainability program, called Envision®, and set a goal that surprised many in the healthcare community: energy independence in 2014. As the CEO of Gundersen Health System, I can tell you that we’re on track to accomplish that goal through vigorous energy conservation measures and renewable energy partnerships.
Our Envision team started with “low hanging fruit.” An energy audit in 2008 opened our eyes to dozens of energy saving opportunities available. We examined our heating/cooling systems, lighting, and employee behavior and used a number of measures to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy demand. By the end of 2009, those efforts led to a 25 percent improvement in our energy efficiency. Our $2 million investment saves the organization more than $1 million every year in energy costs.
But energy conservation measures will only take us so far toward our energy independence goal. The rest will come from renewable energy projects. We tapped into a number of natural resources and several government entities and private businesses who saw the benefits of renewable energy partnerships for our communities. Some of our most successful projects are those we’ve accomplished with community partners.
For example, we worked with our local county government to use previously wasted methane gas from the landfill and turned it into a renewable energy source. The project created a revenue source for La Crosse County, saves our health system hundreds of thousands of dollars and made our Onalaska Campus 100 percent energy independent. We also partnered to develop a wind farm with the rural village of Cashton, Wisconsin, and Organic Valley, the largest cooperative of organic farms in the country. The wind farm generates enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. It is a source of income for both Gundersen and Organic Valley, and a source of pride for the people who live in Cashton.
Our goals are to decrease pollution and save healthcare dollars. Along the way, we have been able to inspire our staff and community with projects ranging from energy conservation and renewable energy to sustainable foods and waste management. Gundersen Health System is one of thousands of healthcare organizations in our country. If we all join together and work toward the same goal through programs like the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, think of the difference we can make in the health or our communities. Minimizing our environmental footprint is not just a trend. It’s the right thing to do for our patients, our communities and our country. We all just need to look in the mirror, understand we are part of the problem and take action to become part of the solution.
Jeff Thompson is Chief Executive Officer of Gundersen Health System.
- Posted byon July 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM EST
Therese Smith is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work on the front lines to protect public health in a changing climate.
Climate change and public health go hand in hand. Illustrating this point, in Healthy People 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services outlines its objective to promote health for everyone through a healthy environment. To do that, we must focus on six different areas including outdoor air quality, our homes and communities, ground water, toxic substances and hazardous wastes in our air, water and land, and our entire global environment.
My job as a public health professional is to try and make a difference one person at a time, one place at a time, if at all possible, by educating, volunteering, and letting people know that clean air is everyone’s responsibility—we all need to breathe it!
The American Lung Association of the Midland States has given me a platform to educate more people about the link between air quality and chronic conditions, such as lung disease, diabetes, and heart disease. As an advocate in various clean air campaigns, I continue to make sure that everyone everywhere gets the chance to breathe the cleanest air possible, both indoors and out.
I work in my community and across the state of Michigan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a Health Advocate and Chronic Condition Case Manager to educate members about lung disease and the importance of a healthy environment. I educate members with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory illnesses that are affected by poor air quality.I make sure they understand how they can make small changes to protect their health on ozone action days, when weather conditions make it likely that ground-level ozone will approach unhealthy levels and are cautious about air pollutants to help improve their quality of life and hopefully their environment too.
I am currently working on my PhD in Public Policy and Administration with a focus on Health Policy to make a difference in changing the course of health policy – to make a difference in the world – so we can all breathe cleaner air.
Therese Smith is a Nurse.
White House Blogs
- The White House Blog
- Middle Class Task Force
- Council of Economic Advisers
- Council on Environmental Quality
- Council on Women and Girls
- Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Office of Management and Budget
- Office of Public Engagement
- Office of Science & Tech Policy
- Office of Urban Affairs
- Open Government
- Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships
- Social Innovation and Civic Participation
- US Trade Representative
- Office National Drug Control Policy