By Elisa Willman, Senior Manager MarComm, Microsoft Citizenship
Kelly Vuong sat in the back of a classroom during a tour at the Blind Children’s Learning Center in Santa Ana, California, observing a visually impaired four-year-old boy tilt his face to the sky to feel the warm August sunshine. Before entering the classroom, he felt the magnets on the door that represented different weather patterns and repositioned the sun magnet as part of his daily educational routine.
She noticed his independence, as his small cane dropped twice from the classroom’s cane rack next to the door. He searched the floor to retrieve it and placed it back in the rack, but the empty slot had an obstruction – a bent hook – that kept pushing the walking stick from its spot. Soon, the little boy felt the bent hook and fixed it, placing the cane in the rack for the third and final time before he entered the classroom.
Kelly, a community development specialist at the Microsoft store in Costa Mesa, was touched by the child’s determination. She knew that Microsoft would be supportive of the Blind Children’s Learning Center and the education it provides during early stages of childhood development to those with visual impairments. She knew the nonprofit would be a perfect fit for our mission to help businesses and individuals – especially children - reach their full potential.
“They are working for and advocating for children at a very young age,” Kelly said about the center. “Now, the children have this education that allows them to overcome and adapt, versus withdraw and hide.”
Presenting a $14,640 check to the Blind Children's Learning Center
As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative and our Employee Giving Program, Kelly is featured as one of 30 Microsoft employee Giving Heroes who are helping young people overcome a number of challenges and capture new opportunities. As a Giving Hero, the Center will receive an additional $1,000 grant and her story will continue to be highlighted giving them a chance to raise even more money through the upcoming #GivingTuesday campaign.
Most of the money Microsoft donated to the Blind Children’s Learning Center combined with other donations will go toward purchasing adaptive technology including Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and Windows 8 operating systems for each classroom. The technology allows children to use touch screens, brail keyboards, and magnify and narrate information on computer screens. Such educational opportunity motivates learning, eases transitions into the sighted world, and empowers students.
“We want to encourage them to grow up to be independent and successful and to reach for their dreams, without limits,” said Carolyn Baker, Director of Development at the Blind Children’s Learning Center and Kelly’s tour guide last year. “Technology is a way to do that, with an extra edge.”
When Kelly was a child herself, she learned firsthand the power of mentors and volunteers. At four years old and the youngest of six siblings, Kelly and her family fled Vietnam as refugees sailing toward America. She received help from volunteers in the U.S. and says she knows that it takes only one person to make a difference. Now she strives to pay forward the kindnesses of those who supported her and her family to build the life she now leads.
“It’s that power of sharing and advocacy that is really strong,” Kelly said. “I feel very fortunate to work for Microsoft and with Microsoft employees in such an ingrained effort. It is such part of our Microsoft DNA: to give back and be connected to our community.”
Meet other Giving Heroes by following #youthspark, #givinghero and #msftgiving on Microsoft Facebook and Twitter. We’ll showcase inspiring employees making a difference for youth each day this month and leading into #GivingTuesday.