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August 11, 2021

How Creating IT Futures Partner Verizon Foundation Helped TALK Do a TechGirlz “Pandemic Pivot”

How are relationships between Creating IT Futures, its programs and philanthropic partners holistic and integrated?


In a chapter of the Technologist Tales podcast from earlier this year, Jeff Lareau, manager, strategic partnerships at Creating Futures, and Alicia Park, national outreach manager for TechGirlz, showcased an example.


Here’s an edited transcript of Jeff and Alicia describing how the Technology Association of Louisville Kentucky (TALK) did a “pandemic pivot” with help from TechGirlz and support from Verizon Foundation:


Jeff Lareau: TechGirlz had previously partnered with the Technology Association of Louisville, Kentucky, [which had run several of the organization’s TechShopz In A Box programs in the past.]


But, you know, as with everything in 2020, there was an issue as a result of COVID19. As summer approached, it became very clear that in-person workshops for middle school girls just weren't going to happen, right?


So, the Technology Association asked the TechGirlz team to create summer camp workshop opportunities very quickly for the Louisville community that were virtual. And the TechGirlz team had to move very fast to support that recruitment, that enrollment, and then host these brand-new virtual workshops.


And, independently of that, [Creating IT Futures] had been having conversations with Verizon and [their attitude was,] "Look, we love what you guys are doing and we'd love to be a part of it. But it's the end of our funding cycle right now. So, number one, there's not too much money left in the pot. And number two, you'd need to submit a proposal immediately, right now.


We heard that and we put two and two together and thought Verizon's money could really go to good use helping quickly build these virtual summer camp workshops for the middle school girls in Louisville. The timing was perfect for those two things to come together so that the girls could still have these important educational opportunities even though there was this terrible pandemic wrecking everyone's plans.


Alicia Park: Since 2018, we had worked with the Technology Association of Louisville, Kentucky, or TALK… for their in-person TechGirlz events.


We worked with them a little more hands-off… using that term in the sense that they were utilizing our materials to bring these workshops to the girls in their area. They already had their location, they engaged with small groups of girls locally and used our curriculum to support their program and reported back to us the number of girls that they were able to serve.


In 2020, with the challenge of pivoting virtually, that definitely took a toll on the bandwidth that the organization could sustain for their offerings in their area. …Knowing that we had transitioned quickly and successfully since March [2020], they came to us for support.


So, [during summer of 2020] they hosted their first virtual sessions, and they were offered exclusively to middle-school-aged girls. The classes we first offered to those in the metro Louisville area in partnership with Louisville central community centers. And then, after that, they opened to registrants nationally through the TechGirlz website.


They had the idea for these summer virtual workshop opportunities. But with struggling to go virtual, they reached out in June [2020] to TechGirlz, looking for assistance in leading the summer sessions and this virtual learning atmosphere… to figure out how they could successfully pivot like we did.


We set up individual meetings to talk about best practices, leading events virtually, how to best utilize the tech roles curriculum they would be teaching. One of the individuals that was leading a session for the TALK tech roles programs was Ben Loetz, as an instructor. [Ben] also is a Verizon solution architect manager in the Louisville area. So, it was a great connection to have since we were working with Verizon, as Jeff was saying.


Also that month, just weeks before the program was set to kick off, Dawn Yankeelov, executive director of TALK, reconnected with TechGirlz to ask for assistance in organizing the summer virtual workshops they planned on hosting. They realized they didn't have the bandwidth, and their first sessions were about to kick off in a few weeks' time. They were struggling to create and organize a system for registration and promotion of events to really make sure the girls that used to come to them in person, and even beyond that, were aware that these programs were going to be happening.


As Jeff said, we, TechGirlz, quickly jumped in. We set up event postings on the TechGirlz website, we built out the registration forms, and we started social media promotion, and managing the lists of the registrants which is a huge undertaking for any organization to take on. And since that's what we do, it just made sense that we could make this happen.


In that short time, TechGirlz was able to fill their first workshops and continue to support the other workshops they had scheduled twice a week… Seven workshops ran during TALK’s summer program, with an additional workshop added for August [2020.] In addition, they hosted three workshops in October [2020] and November [2020], and [planned] three more for [December through February 2020.]


So, 14 virtual workshops since June [2020] by one organization partnering with us, is so amazing to see. With partners like TALK that help bring tech opportunities to more girls in their community and across the nation, without their support, those 14 additional workshops may not have been available to our girls.


About 200 girls have attended a TALK-hosted TechGirlz event, and that is why partnering or volunteering with TechGirlz is so important.


Hear the full podcast conversation with Jeff Lareau and Alicia Park about how TechGirlz and support from Verizon Foundation helped TALK make a successful “pandemic pivot” here:


Chapter 49 –A Tale of Two Partners: How Verizon & Workday … (


Technologist Tales, an award-winning podcast produced for Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, shares profiles of people from an array of backgrounds who discovered and shaped successful careers working with technology – and, now, help others do the same.


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