Comcast awards Technology Access Foundation (TAF) 25k to fund third year of Comcast Innovation Challenge

Seattle, WA – On Monday, March 11, Technology Access Foundation (TAF) received $25,000 from Comcast to fund a third year of the Comcast NBCUniversal Innovation Challenge, a four-month-long hackathon developed in partnership between TAF and Comcast where TAF@Saghalie students propose solutions to social issues utilizing technology. This year, students tackled the critical local issue of homelessness. Throughout the duration of the challenge, students worked with mentors from Comcast and with other professionals who are actively solving or working closely with homelessness.

Held at TAF’s Bethaday Community Learning Space, teams representing eighteen TAF@Saghalie students presented their solutions to a panel of experts. In the end, a team who created an innovative platform, “Step It Up”, earned first place which included a $1,000 scholarship and a new Surface Pro laptop for each team member. The team presented a social networking platform where homeless could connect to resources and support easily, and receive a rapid response. Nalani, a member of the winning team, passionately spoke of her experience in homelessness and the impact she envisioned her team’s platform could have on the homeless community. “I was pretty young at that time but I still remember a couple of things,” she shared. “The guardian that I was with was having a hard time finding a place to live and work. With the platform we created, I think it would have been easier for my guardian at the time to take care of us and find housing and job opportunities.” Most likely, there are other students at TAF@Saghalie who are either currently or have been displaced. TAF@Saghalie reports that 70% of its school identifies as a student of color and 65% qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Nalani speaks about how her experience with homelessness could have been helped by using her team's app.
A student shares her teams app idea.
Judges deliberate after students presented their innovation challenge ideas.

“With the platform we created, I think it would have been easier for my guardian at the time to take care of us and find housing and job opportunities.”

NALANI, 10TH GRADE
TAF@SAGHALIE

Lisa Stiffler of Geekwire, joined Scott Greenstone of Seattle Times’ Project Homeless, Trish Millines Dziko of TAF, and a host of Comcast VPs and community representatives to judge the projects. “The panel of judges was great and brought in a variety of perspectives,” Stiffler noted. “It was fun to discuss the merits of the different presentations.”

Following the student awards, Comcast awarded TAF’s Career Readiness Program Manager, Shaunte Nance-Johnson, with a leadership award for her critical role in making this year’s challenge a smooth production and success. Then, on the heels of a successful pitch event, Diem Ly, Comcast Community Outreach Director surprised TAF by announcing a 25k investment to “ensured next year’s challenge is fully funded.”

“We’re excited to continue this innovation challenge into the next school year for a third challenge, with an additional $25,000 to TAF.”

DIEM LY, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY IMPACT & EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
COMCAST

Throughout this year’s challenge, Comcast already provided each winning team member laptops, $1,000 and $500 college scholarships for first and second place winners, $50 Amazon gift cards to participants for attendance, and a stipend to cover an after-school program teacher lead – an expense often overlooked when planning partnership programs. Comcast’s commitment towards another year at TAF@Saghalie is the icing on top.

“We’re excited to continue this Innovation Challenge into the next school year, for a third Challenge, with an additional $25,000 to TAF,” Diem says. “We hope to build on this year’s Challenge and support more students next year!”

“I’m extremely proud of our students wanting to take on a challenge that’s so close to home,” Nance-Johnson says. “They chose a regional issue and all the students either went to a homeless shelter or gathered data from displaced individuals. Programs like this challenge we’ve created in collaboration with Comcast help our students get creative in solving real issues and it’s helping them to become socially aware community leaders and problem-solvers.”

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