Newsletter – November 2021

Hope this newsletter finds you well. We are thankful for your prayers, for new opportunities, and for efforts showing fruit. Two remarkable stories occurred in these last 2 months:

You may recall we are partnering with Liberia Renewal Ministries (LRM), to run a Basic Skills course for 15 high schoolers in Liberia, Africa. (Half are girls.) Our partner is Boye-Nelson Kiamu, who is CEO of LRM; he is also a PhD student at Fuller Seminary. Logistics and operations with Africa are always an adventure, but with a week’s delay we got 3 laptops to Liberia. Each laptop was shared by 5 students.

Olivia — our remarkable 17 year old Hope IT student — taught the basic computer skills course (creating a document and spreadsheet, using a mouse and keyboard, and basic Internet searches) to these students who have NEVER touched a computer before. Olivia had her own challenges, still recovering from a COVID vaccination of the previous day of the start of our course.

Olivia put in the effort. With 14 hours of preparation work, class time was 2 hours on 3 consecutive Saturdays. The courses started at 8am, so it would not be too late in Liberia, which was a 3pm start time. Olivia grew as a good and caring teacher, learning how to patiently repeat new topics until students were able to repeat and understand. There were several golden moments of 16 students…Olivia and Liberian students…concentrating and working together…all learning.

We are proud of Olivia. It was just last year, Olivia first joined a Hope IT course. She entered the foster care system at that time. One year later, look at what Olivia is doing. Above and below we show pictures of Olivia teaching, all the 15 students with the laptops, and Boye-Nelson receiving the laptops from me and Hope IT. We feel blessed by the recent successes, and hope to do more.

Meanwhile, we were preparing to offer our next WordPress on-line course. We were able to reconnect with the Sycamores, a foster group home for boys. (It’s been 2 years since we have had boys from the Sycamore in a Hope IT course). After I visited the home, we had 4 boys signed up for this October course, and 2 boys (ages 16 and 18) attended the course on 4 Saturdays. Sycamores provided laptops for the boys to work remotely on their new web sites.

Our WordPress course mostly covers web development, but many other topics come up, like Cloud computing, art, and tracking metrics. The boys are interested in more courses, so we are developing a more extensive education plan.

Hope IT plans to have an in-person Robotics course in February. This is a new course, and we are getting assistance from Ed Li and Barnabas Robotics, also in Pasadena. We will give you an update in January.

Please pray for Liberia Renewal Ministries, these 15 students in Liberia, students like Olivia and other Hope IT students in the Pasadena area, and the Hope IT team. We all need to see and experience the mercies of our Lord.

Blessings,
–Mike Veerman
Hope IT team lead

Newsletter – August 2021

Hope this newsletter finds you well.  The Hope IT team wants to give you an update on our situation and upcoming plans.

As you know,  COVID and the Delta variant are still here.  We (try to) progress to normalcy, while taking precaution against the Delta variant.

Such is the case at Hope IT.   To keep students safe,  we decided to hold another on-line course.  For October, we will hold our most successful course, creating web sites with WordPress.

Our other problem is underserved kids and their families are struggling.  We try  to find kids to attend our courses.  It is hard to create courses that are on-line, using the platforms and skills available to the students.  It’s hard for kids to attend on-line courses. Hope IT is starting to recruit  kids for our course.

It is not fun to struggle.  It brings questions.  One wonders if we are on the right path.

In the midst of these struggles, we find some areas of opportunity and partnership.  We are thankful to God for these.

First, we found a partner in Barnabas Robotics.  Ed Li is their co-founder, and has been teaching kids to build various robots for 7 years, from 5 years old to high school.  Hope IT recently visited his educational center in Pasadena.  We were thrilled, and encouraged.  Ed has a heart for teaching.  He runs his course for kids to be engaged, to add creative ideas, and include art and their individual perspectives in their work.

For example, two robots were built by 2 siblings, a 5 and 8 years old.  These robots controlled traffic light switch boards, reacting to toy cars coming near the stop.  The kids added their own traffic signs, which they identified with on their own family travels.  Another robot was able to make fencing moves, made by a highschooler.  The number of robots at the center was quite impressive.  Unfortunately we cannot meet in-person to build robots while Covid is a threat.  But we are beginning to prepare for a robotics course.

Another opportunity to run a course for 15 high schoolers in Liberia, Africa.  Our partner is Boye-Nelson Kiamu, who is CEO of Liberia Renewal Ministries; he is also a PhD student at Fuller Seminary.  We are working on having Hope IT students teaching other students, including preparing resources to train the students who will teach.  The Hope IT vision is to reach underserved kids in the Pasadena area, we want to build up their skills, including teaching and leadership skills.  One of our Hope IT kids — an impressive high school senior — will teach basic skills like creating a document with a word processor, spreadsheet, Internet searches, and creating an email account.

These 15 Liberian students have not touched a computer before.  The idea is to have them share 3 laptops; 5 students to each laptop.  (And if you like to donate a spare laptop, definitely contact us!)  There are many risks:  For one, the Delta variant is also spreading in Liberia.  Having 15 students so close together may be unsafe even with masks.  Additionally, internet and electricity in Liberia are intermittent, even in the capital of Monrovia.

We plan to start this course in Liberia in September, so preparation time is limited.  Can our one Hope IT student lead all 4 Saturdays?  Will conditions in Liberia permit this to be done?  Stay tuned…

Please pray for students in Liberia, and in the Pasadena area as well, as school is starting again.  Pray for us all to see the goodness of the Lord, and again remember that the Lord is good, all the time.

Blessings,
–Mike Veerman
Hope IT team lead

 

Newsletter – March 2021

Hope IT students's web page in   WordpPress
Olivia’s WordPress Home web page

Hope IT is hopeful, navigating through the new realities with the COVID virus.  We want to share why.  Here’s an interesting story about a Hope IT student in the last few months.

Olivia is 16, and a junior at Hoover High school in Glendale.  Rev. Jim Milley from Bridges, a non-profit Christian based organization, referred her to us.

Olivia came to Hope IT at a difficult period with her family.  Rev. Jim thought Hope IT could provide her some technical skills.  The timing was right, as we were starting our October WordPress course, teaching how to create web sites.  Olivia joined, and did very well.  (See a sample of her work at the top of this newsletter.)  Rev. Jim hired her to work on the Bridges WordPress site.  While Bridges uses different WordPress Themes and Plugins shown in the course, Olivia understood the concepts and adapted.  She said the skills she learned in the Hope IT WordPress course enabled her to be effective this job.

This is what Hope IT wants.  We were thrilled with the immediate success of our student.  Then came another idea:  If she is this good, could she teach WordPress to other kids?  More broadly, can Hope IT teach and enable kids to teach other kids?

God provided such an opportunity.  Hope IT also was teaching a WordPress course with Stars in Pasadena (an afternoon mentoring and tutoring program) last Fall, and they wanted another WordPress course in the Winter.  They were open to have Olivia co-teach with me.  And so she did.  For six weeks on Wednesday nights, Olivia and I taught 3 Stars students WordPress; two of these students were girls.  Was it perfect?  No.  Do we have ideas how to make this better in the future?  Definitely.

On top of this, Hope IT paid Olivia to teach.  We do not have a motivation structure in place yet.  Olivia in fact took us by surprise.  She is so able.  So our motivation for her to teach was to pay her $13 per hour for this course, including five hours of preparation and debriefing time.  Worth every penny.  And we partnered with Bridges to make this happen, having them handle the taxes and other details with Olivia’s work permit.  We are sure this will increase Olivia’s confidence going forward.

Olivia wants to get into the medical field when she goes to college.  I also work for a hospital, and we have a ton of data.  She has finished our Data Analysis course in February (see one of her dashboards using Google Data Studio at the bottom of this email), and is also taking college courses.  True, she is exceptional, but we will seek the spark in any kid.  Hope IT is there for kids who have the ability, but just need those key times to gain skills and opportunities, and encouragement.

You may also notice the side story of partnership going on with Hope IT; that is key for us.  Again, Hope IT is focused on underserved kids in the Pasadena area, to give them access to IT/computer skills, as well as to IT professionals.

Please pray for our students and our Hope IT team.  God shows the way.

Blessings,
–Mike Veerman
Hope IT team lead

Hope IT student Data Studio dashboard
Olivia’s dashboard created in Data Studio

2 February courses completed

Hope IT finished 2 on-line courses in February.  It was a full time for us, despite COVID.

First, we finished our Data Analysis course, meeting on 4 Saturdays mornings.  We used Google’s Data Studio, and covered 3 datasets: our own course member’s Cell Phone Ownership data to start, and 2 datasets from Kaggle, Video Game Sales and COVID-19 data from John Hopkins University.  We covered basic statistical functions –like Minimum, Maximum, Counts, Sums, Mean (Average) and Median — and created Bar, Line and Geo charts.  We also covered how to avoid dirty tricks with statistics, and how Data Science uses data to make future predictions.

Second, we finished a second WordPress course with Stars.  This was a 6 week course, meeting on Wednesday nights.  We had 3 students, and covered Themes — the Astra Theme — and Plugins, like the Elementor page builder,  WP Power Stats to track users visiting our site, Yoast SEO, and even a eCommerce plugin, Easy Digital Download.  And on top of all that, this course was co-taught by a student that took the October WordPress course; more on that later.

Newsletter – November 2020

HopeIT RaspberryPi
HopeIT – Cameras built from Raspyberry Pis in February 2019
Hi friend,

Hope you are well in this challenging time, with COVID, in-person schooling on hold, glaring wounds of racial injustice in our nation, and after a Presidential election like no other.  This is challenging for adults.  How are young folks managing these times?  How can we show our youth God and his message of hope, peace, justice and mercy?

As you know, Hope IT is a Christian based effort that focuses on underserved students in Pasadena; these young folks are facing increasing number of challenges.  Hope IT partners with organizations and faith communities which serve these students.

Hope IT strives to continue to offer IT/computer courses (at no cost) in this safe distancing environment.  However, we have not been able to give frequent updates on what we are doing.  We will continue to improve on that.  We do want to tell you stories of our students, our team, and our courses in the next few months.

Gratefully, small breakthroughs have been slowly occurring in the last 9 months.  Here is a summary.

  • We continued to offer courses in June and October, on Saturday mornings. We have had 3 students in each course.
  • Our courses had to be on-line, so we focused on topics that work in that format.  One topic is creating websites, using WordPress.  It is a good teaching environment, as we can quickly see the progress of students; we just need to see their web sites!
  • The Hope IT team has imagination, privilege and know-how to create an environment to allow each student to have their own website domain, to create their own websites.  This is beyond what WordPress offers for free (in WordPress.org).  In these Hope IT environments, students can both create/modify web pages, and use plugins.  Plugins are additional features that really demonstrate the power and flexibility of WordPress.  In our courses, our students used plugins to easily use page builders, track statistics on visitors to their web sites, and even use SEO, Search Engine Optimization.  Our Hope IT web domains allow students to continue to explore and create beyond our course times, and we give them an extra month to do so.
  • This month was a first for us: having a student take 3 courses with us.  This means this student is getting a breath of topics of what IT is about.  He has taken a course in creating games on his Android phone, creating code in Python programming language to have a virtual robot get out of a maze, and create websites with WordPress.  He is 13!  What happens if he keeps going, keeps learning?
  • A new student this month has experienced challenging times.  In God’s grace, she is surrounded by those who care for her.  In partnership with others, after this WordPress course, she will get a paid position to modify a website using WordPress. She is 16!  For us at Hope IT, it is very fulfilling to see a student learn skills and build confidence, and be able to directly use this new ability to get paid.
  • We actually had 2 courses going on at the same time.  We started a new course with Stars.  We have had 3 students, in a 6 week course on Wednesday nights, again learning WordPress.  To see what they can do so quickly is satisfying.  Stars does such a great job in nurturing and mentoring underserved kids in Pasadena.  The Hope IT team looks forward to holding this kind of enrichment course with Stars again.
  • Our next course in February we plan to teach Data Analysis.  It may not sound interesting to kids, but they will benefit.  What can data show us?  How is it relevant?  Well, let’s see what happens to a nation if the trend of COVID infections rise!  We all watch the COVID positive test curves.  There are many other interesting data trends that drive our realities, like election delegates, census data in the US, education vs wage earnings, the stock market, etc.   We cannot touch on all of these, but the Hope IT team thinks if we can introduce these ideas, and have kids create their own charts with raw data, they will gain a key skill for their future.

You may not know, but in each of our courses, we end with a Scripture reflection.  In our Python course to solve mazes, we focused on the 3 parables of being lost in Luke 15.  In our WordPress course, we focus on examples of the Word of God, being a form of remote learning, and showing the power of the Word: both in creation, God’s call to us, and the prophetic voice.  Our aim is just to read the Word itself, as we know that will have its own growth in us all, students and Hope IT team members alike.  We do add short comments on what these Scripture readings mean to us.  We aim for kids to realize, they are not alone, and God was with them in their past, with them right now, and intends a good future for them.The Hope IT team members are volunteers and have our own challenges as well.  We are professionally asked to work longer hours, and much of the time we don’t have energy for much more than work and family.  Each of us has experienced big changes in our work environment in the last 2 months.  Like so many others, we have to deal with layoffs, or the threat of them.  True, we realize we can work remotely, are generally paid well, and are mostly stable in these challenging times.

Please pray for us: our students and the Hope IT team.  In small ways, we see glimpses of God moving and working.  We need to keep going, trusting in God’s good and loving ways.

Peace to you in these times,

–Mike Veerman
Hope IT team lead

 

 

Partnering with Stars to offer another WordPress course in Fall 2020

Hope IT was glad to partner with Stars, offering a 6-week course in WordPress, a web site building tool.   Stars for more than 20 years has been caring for underserved kids in Pasadena, offering tutoring, mentoring, and many other efforts.  Hope IT adapted our on-line WordPress course to fit Star’s scheduling, offering their high schoolers enrichment opportunities on-line on Wednesday nights, for 6 weeks.  There were 3 students in this session.  This enrichment course started in  mid-September, and finished in at the end of October.  Hope IT looks forward to partnering with Stars again.

CyberSecurity course cancelled

Sadly, Hope It had to cancel the CyberSecurity course due to COVID19.  We will try offer this course next school year.

We will plan to have a course in June, most likely covering WordPress, creating web sites.  We will post our plans in late April, and will explore if we can teach this remotely/on-line, if that is needed.  More to come.  Be safe!

CyberSecurity course starting in March 2020

Hope IT has offered 2 courses this school year: 1) Creating games on Android phones, and 2) Solving mazes using Python.

We are pleased to offer an Intro to CyberSecurity, partnering with students from Cal Poly Pomona.  This is on the Intermediate level.  Begin to be learn key topics on how companies and governments work to protect their systems, and data.