Aaron Means is a full-time employee of IBM. As a corporate volunteer, he donated 20% of his time (over 400 hours) over the past year toward facilitating IBM’s wide-ranging support for education in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).
IBM currently supports at least 15 key initiatives. In particular, Means has been instrumental in the launch and growth of the Computer Access to Neighborhood (CAN) program, which provides computers, technology tutoring and safe after school space for students in Charlotte’s most fragile and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Through the CAN program, students isolated by poverty gain connection to technology skills and to a wider world trough the Internet, two powerful abilities unavailable to them without CAN’s assistance.
Means has been an essential part of setting up IBM-donated computer equipment in the 43 community-hosted CAN sites. IBM has renewed its continued commitment to CAN because of its measurable impact: 3,300 hours of usage at CAN sites, up 32% over the year before; a nearly double pass rate on the mandatory NC Test of Computer Skills for CAN participants compared to non-CAN students; service to over 1,400 unique individuals through CAN since the program’s inception; and a CAN participant expected growth rate of 12%.
In addition to CAN, Means has led IBM’s participation in innovative applications of technology to education initiatives. For example, IBM provided a $2 million grant in 2004 to foster collaboration between teachers and IBM software engineers. The result was an application to increase teacher-parent-student communication. Another IBM-led initiative was the creation of a “Learning Village” that enables teachers to work together online to develop lessons, share practices, and provide professional development opportunities. The Learning Village grew through IBM grants to partner two universities with CMS to train pre-service and lateral entry teachers. An outgrowth of that technology led to the “Mentor Place”, which used IBM-created virtual space to link corporate volunteers and government leaders to CMS students in need of mentors.
Means works closely with CMS’s Office of Strategic Partnership to understand the areas of need within CMS schools. Using his 30-year background with IBM, Aaron then recommends opportunities for partnership based on CMS’s need and IBM’s strengths. Means is also able to use his network of contacts within IBM’s vast organization to help CMS connect with the right people for the task. Whether by advocating grants and funding, by working hands-on at CAN sites to set up workstations in fragile and disadvantaged neighborhoods, or by connecting IBM experts with visionary educators at CMS, Means enables initiative to happen that would be unlikely without his intervention.