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10/31/2003 - TINCAN Receives Teen-Targeted Grants

Federal grants in excess of $800,000 were received this month by The Inland Northwest Community Access Network (TINCAN). The Department of Commerce, Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) awarded $499,070 over a 3-year period, and the Department of Education, Community Technology Center (CTC) awarded $308,000 in a 1-year grant. Both grants target "at risk" teenagers.

The TOP grant is a "creativity grant" according to Karen Michaelson, TINCAN director. The teenagers taking part in this program will use technology to create a virtual teen center. "Teens we talked with always complained about the lack of places that welcomed them," said Michaelson. "The on-line teen center will be their own space." The teenagers --- from 13 to 18 --- will be allowed to use the teen center for anything they choose. They may use drama, art, music, video, or any other form --- so long as it is creative. Any Spokane teenager is welcome in this program, and schools will not be part of the recruitment process.

Teens interested in this program can call the TINCAN office at 744-0972.

The CTC grant is to help in teaching basic skills, and teenagers in 9th and 10th grades are the target audience. "The program funded by this grant is for kids who are not doing well on standardized test scores --- who are not passing in school," says Michaelson. These are kids who have never mastered basic reading, writing, or arithmetic skills. Area schools will help TINCAN identify the students who take part in this program.

TINCAN will modify its basic entrepreneur program for use by the skills program. These students will plan a business, think out what they need for this business, make lists, and research their business needs on line. They may also do research by going to suppliers locally. In developing the business, the student will have to read and develop some math skills to determine how much money they will need to start up. Then, if they develop a Web site of their own, they will have to write some copy. "We call it stealth learning," says Michaelson. "They develop skills in a meaningful context that is also fun." "Who knows," Michaelson continues, "they may even come up with a viable business plan."

The CTC grant will also serve as a pilot program. There must be measurable results via external evaluation. Evaluation will use a 'logic model' which allows the evaluator and the participant to look at where they want to go --- short and long term --- what tools are needed, and how much progress has been made toward the goal. This approach to learning has worked with previous groups of teenagers. This grant will allow TINCAN to refine its curriculum and then disseminate the course materials nationally.

Both programs will take place outside of the school system at places like community centers. "For many of the teenagers involved, school is not a positive experience," says Michaelson. Both programs will feature a summer camp as well as after school and weekend activities.

For more information about TINCAN, go to: http://www.tincan.org/.

Billie Moreland
 
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