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An Enduring Commitment to Strengthening Cisco’s Communities

It started one day with a quiet knock on a classroom door where I was volunteering. A student at Joseph George middle-school in East San Jose asked if she could continue building her solar car at lunch time. Soon, she was joined by a one friend, then another. Pretty soon, they would come three or four at a time during snack, lunch, and after school to perfect their vehicles and get them ready for the street.

The students thought they were having fun; but in reality, they were learning the fundamentals of engineering – friction, gear ratios, motors, solar energy and wind resistance. These students, several of whom faced significant struggles early on in their solar car classes, had found a place they could succeed. They approached their solar cars work with a newfound dedication and focus that blew their teachers and parents away.

This opportunity was facilitated by Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that works with working professionals to teach volunteer apprenticeships to middle school students in low-income communities. Citizen Schools is one of 92 nonprofit / nongovernmental organizations around the globe that received funding this year through the Cisco Foundation’s signature community granting program, called Community Impact Cash Grants, or CICG for short. One of the core values at Cisco is building strong relationships with partners in the communities in which we operate, and the CICG program is at the heart of those efforts.

Cisco support helps Citizen Schools encourage students to stay in school

Cisco Foundation grant support helps Citizen Schools expand the learning day for underserved middle school students by offering apprenticeships that get them excited about learning and encourage them to stay in school.

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Bay Area Nonprofit Grantees Reunite with Cisco Employee Champions at Awards Event

One of Cisco’s longest-running traditions is a special program for Silicon Valley nonprofits, which has offered Community Impact Cash Grants to carefully selected community organizations for more than a decade. In recent years, the grant amount has been set at $15,000 each for programs focused on K-8 education and health, a subset of Cisco’s overall social investment areas.

A unique aspect of the program is its reliance on Cisco employee volunteers. While holding down their day jobs, these hardworking team members help drive every aspect of the grantmaking process – from evaluating the applications to performing site visits to identifying the 40 strongest applicants from a large and worthy pool. (See this year’s awardees.) On Wednesday, this year’s recipients gathered at Cisco’s headquarters in San Jose, California, to pick up their checks, brainstorm with peers about common challenges they face, and reunite with the Cisco employees who helped evaluate and recommend their grant proposals as the most competitive.

From left: Operation Access’ Marisol Ponce de Leon, Cisco’s Cindy Cooley, and Operation Access’ Ellen Kaufman.

From left: Operation Access’ Marisol Ponce de Leon, Cisco’s Cindy Cooley, and Operation Access’ Ellen Kaufman.

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