Mackenzie announced the grant during Spectrum Youth and Family Services recent 4th Annual Empty Bowl Dinner. In addition to the grant, Comcast served as the Presenting Sponsor of the annual fundraiser, which raises proceeds to support the Free Meals Program at Spectrum Youth and Family Services Drop-In Center. Employees at Comcast s Burlington office also held a food drive to benefit the organization, collecting over 500 pounds of food to donate. Comcast is committed to making a difference in the communities where our customers and employees live and work, said Pam Mackenzie, Area Vice President for Comcast in Vermont. We are proud to partner with Spectrum Youth and Family Services to ensure that Burlington s youth receive the job training skills they need to boost their knowledge and confidence, and help them obtain their first job and an opportunity for a successful future. About The Comcast FoundationThe Comcast Foundation was founded by Comcast Corporation in June 1999 and is the company s chief source of charitable support to qualified non-profit organizations. The Foundation primarily invests in programs that work to create a positive, sustainable impact within our communities in the areas of volunteerism, literacy and youth leadership development. Since its inception, The Comcast Foundation has donated more than $43 million to organizations in the communities where Comcast serves. More information about The Foundation and its programs is available at www.comcast.com(link is external) click on About, then In the Community. We have seen more young people walk out of doors equipped with the skills to effectively search for employment, interview for appropriate positions, and maintain their job in a professional manner. Thanks to the Comcast Foundation we will be able to serve more youth through this program, said Mark Redmond, Executive Director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services. Since entering Vermont in November 2006, Comcast has aggressively expanded its services across the Green Mountain State, investing in its advanced fiber-optic network to bring broadband services to previously unserved homes and businesses and partnering with local communities. The company has launched a number of its advanced services in nearly three years, including Digital Cable with On Demand, High-Definition Television Service, Digital Video Recorders, Comcast High-Speed Internet service and Comcast Digital Voice. In addition, Comcast has offered programming of special interest to Vermonters. Comcast also assists local non-profit organizations in Vermont with financial, in-kind and employee volunteer support. Comcast serves more than 100,000 customers in Vermont and employs approximately 300 individuals. Spectrum One Stop (SOS), conveniently located on Pearl Street in Burlington, is an emergency youth shelter, drop-in center, and multi-service center, which offers youth, ages 14-21 a comprehensive continuum of services, including education, employment, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and much more. Spectrum Youth and Family Service s goal is to support homeless youth helping them navigate a successful transition to a productive adulthood. More information about Spectrum and our programs is available at www.spectrumvt.org(link is external) About Spectrum Youth and Family ServicesSpectrum has more than 39 years of experience providing housing and support services to homeless, foster, and at-risk youth in Vermont. Spectrum s mission is to work with Vermont youth and families to improve their lives through advocacy, direct services, and a continuum of support, to create a more just and compassionate community. Comcast Cable,Demonstrating the company s commitment to giving back to the communities it serves, the Comcast Foundation today announced it has awarded $30,000 to Spectrum Youth and Family Services, helping the organization fulfill its mission to provide transitional housing and support services to at-risk youth in Burlington. The grant $10,000 a year over three years will enable the organization to assist local young people acquire the skills needed to obtain and retain an entry-level job.The Comcast grant will support Spectrum Youth and Family Services Job Skills Training Program, which helps homeless, foster and at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 21 obtain, practice and reinforce the skills necessary to obtain and retain an entry-level job. The program, a two-week intensive course that runs 90-minute sessions five days a week, offers job shadowing opportunities, internships and interviews at local businesses for the young people that graduate from it. The funds will help offer 540 class hours of job skills training and provide training for 225 at-risk youth over the next three years. ###
Aundrea Marin, a fifth-grader at Vermont Avenue Elementary who was among the 10 selected to speak to Parmitano, asked him about his family. Marin said she was able to draw parallels between the astronaut’s answers and her own family. “It becomes a real thing for them — it turns it into something real,” Warren said. “And I think it sort of broadens their view of what they are able to do, you know, because you talked to space as a kid — that’s pretty cool.” “It is a pretty indescribable thing when the static fades away, and you actually get that clear reception, and the pass has really started,” Barakat said. “I think to see that age group and the way that they will be excited — that will be exciting for me.” In preparation for the call, each of the school’s approximately 270 third- through fifth-grade students wrote two questions for Italian astronaut and ISS commander Luca Parmitano, who has performed 45 similar educational contacts since 2013. A judging panel of YSP staff selected 20 of the student questions for the contact. Barakat said discussions with Vermont Elementary staff and preparation for the contact began in April. Barakat spent the summer preparing as well, amending YSP curriculum with a combination of “some quality space education, a little bit of ham radio and a little bit of ISS-specific information” and getting a ham radio license. The event’s execution is especially important given the timely nature of the contact — the ISS travels at an estimated 17,000 miles per hour and was only within range of the school for an estimated eight minutes, so the Q&A had to begin promptly. Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast, STEM program manager at JEP, said the preparation leading up to the event was a significant undertaking. Before the contact, YSP staff coordinated the submission and selection of the questions and held a dress rehearsal of the event the Friday before to ensure that the timing of the questions was feasible. “[Parmitano] ended up kind of relating to what I’m about in my family because he brought up his two daughters and his wife,” Marin said. “My dad, he has my little sister plus my mom, so knowing that if my dad was up there — and [Parmitano] said that he misses them so much, and if my dad was up there, I would miss him a lot too.” Barakat said she believed the contact would help the Vermont Elementary students put a human face to what they’ve been learning about space exploration. ARISS educational ambassador Darrell Warren said the value of the contact lies in its interactivity, a component of education that he said is often talked about but needs to be implemented more widely. YSP’s first application for a contact, submitted in 2017, was turned down. However, with help from local radio experts who had the proper equipment for the contact and were familiar with the application process, the program’s second attempt was approved. Vermont Elementary is the first elementary school in L.A. to participate in a contact with the ISS via ARISS. The idea to apply for the contact came from the Young Scientists Program, an offshoot of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Joint Educational Project, a service-learning initiative that partners USC students with local community organizations. YSP comprises 24 teaching assistants, undergraduate USC students with STEM majors who assist with science lessons and activities at seven schools in the USC Family of Schools. “We really talked a lot about the things that we already do at YSP, the fact that we’re targeting underrepresented groups in the Los Angeles Unified School District and trying to encourage them to pursue STEM education, realizing that science is not a scary thing,” Barakat said. “[Science is] not, you know, difficult; it’s not just for some people — it can be for everyone.” “For me, it still baffles me that we’re able to connect to someone that’s in outer space, moving on the International Space Station, which actually will go above us eight times a day,” Kast said. “We can contact them for literally less than 10 minutes … The logistics of all that, just — it’s mind-blowing.” While most elementary school students in Los Angeles were lining up single file in preparation for recess or lunch Monday afternoon, students at Vermont Avenue Elementary School were assembling for a different reason: They were about to converse with an astronaut at the International Space Station as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Program. Facilitating the contact was no simple feat, said Rita Barakat, the assistant director of YSP. The application process takes nearly a year and resembles a grant application. It asks why the school is deserving of the collaboration and how the contact would benefit the community. Young Scientists Program, part of the Joint Educational Project, helped facilitate contact between students at Vermont Avenue Elementary School and International Space Station commander Luca Parmitano Monday. (Ben Butcher | Daily Trojan) ARISS, an international organization devoted to arranging these contacts between schools around the world and astronauts aboard the ISS, has set up hundreds of educational contacts to date with schools on six continents. Most of ARISS’s members, including those who helped with Vermont Elementary’s contact, are knowledgeable volunteers with an interest in space, radio and science education.