Volunteer effort will provide 10,000 students with a hands-on STEM learning experience. 

On October 28, 500 Cisco employees assembled kits to benefit two nonprofit partners, making the World Wide IT Manager’s Offsite (WWITMO) “Giving Back” event Cisco’s largest volunteer effort ever. Two-hundred volunteers assembled hands-on activity kits for Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) and 300 assembled hygiene and snack kits for HomeFirst at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California.

WWITMO is a biennial gathering of Cisco IT managers from all over the world to plan and strategize on goals for the upcoming fiscal year. This year’s event spanned 3 days and featured the “Giving Back” activity as well as team dinners and guest speakers.

RAFT is an important partner for Cisco in increasing student interest and engagement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Their hands-on activity kits are helping educators transform their students’ learning experience and give them the skills to succeed in STEM careers. At the event, volunteers huddled together and built kits like the Caesar Cipher Disc, which teaches students cryptography in an easy-to-learn, fun new way.

HomeFirst has been a leader in raising awareness of poverty and homelessness in the Bay Area since 1980. The laundry, hygiene, and snack kits that Cisco volunteers assembled will provide some of the necessities homeless people lack on a daily basis. Something as simple as a handwritten note, which volunteers wrote and slipped into the snack bags, will provide comfort and kindness when HomeFirst brings the bags to homeless encampments around Santa Clara County this winter.

Volunteers like Anil Kalbag, a Connected IT Services engineer in San Jose, helped HomeFirst reach its goal of assembling 15,000 plastic silverware sets at the event.

“I think there’s a lot of great energy,” Anil said. “I loved having the music in the background and working with our core groups created a friendly competition.”

Volunteers lined up at tables, wrapping, counting, cutting, and drawing for 3 hours as dance music pumped from the overhead speakers. They laughed and smiled as they caught up with familiar faces, all while spending their time giving back to the community.

By the end of the event, Cisco volunteers had helped RAFT create 10,000 different student experiences, from kits that teach students simple arithmetic to interactive “shake tables.” For HomeFirst, they assembled 7,000 hygiene kits, 2,400 laundry packets, and 500 snack bags that will be used during their In From the Cold campaign this holiday season.

Grainger Marburg, CEO of RAFT, acknowledged that building student confidence in STEM subjects is essential to fueling the future workforce. “Cisco’s numerous contributions over the past 16 years have enabled RAFT to develop both the tools and infrastructure to connect educators with effective hands-on learning activities,” Marburg said.

Jenny Niklaus, CEO of HomeFirst, also expressed her appreciation of Cisco and the volunteers. “Cisco has been one of our strongest corporate partners,” she said.

Parhta Chakrboty, a Supply Chain IT engineer from San Jose, is excited to volunteer again at the next WWITMO event.

“It was a lot of fun and we did it for a good cause,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to know we broke the record and we’ll definitely try again next year!”

Cisco WWITMO 2014

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