Intel thinks positive about Israeli kids’ futures

Named one of the top companies in Israel working to improve society, Intel is helping to tutor children across the country in math, science and computing. Intel volunteer Udi de Groot works with students from a Haifa high school in …

Named one of the top companies in Israel working to improve society, Intel is helping to tutor children across the country in math, science and computing.

Intel community outreach

Intel volunteer Udi de Groot works with students from a Haifa high school in Intel’s Think Positive+ project.

It takes a village to educate kids properly, according to an old saying – but in Israel, it takes a high-tech company, in the form of global technology giant Intel, which is now in its eighth year of leading a program called “Think Positive+” (Choshvim Chiyuvi), which gives students all over Israel the opportunity to excel in math, science – and of course, computers.

“We started doing this at Intel in Petah Tikva eight years ago, with a few engineers getting involved with students at a local school and tutoring them,” says Koby Bahar, a spokesperson for Intel and a coordinator of the Think Positive+ program. “It’s part of Intel’s tradition of getting involved in the community, and from there it simply mushroomed.”

Bahar isn’t just parroting text from the company handbook. Intel employees are among the most socially involved in Israel, and the company takes its role in society very seriously. “Forty percent of Intel employees volunteer to do community work,” Bahar says, and the company strongly encourages employees to do exactly that. According to Bahar, Intel is involved in numerous aid projects, both one-time and ongoing.

Beyond social consciousness

During the devastating Carmel forest fire, for example, Intel pitched in by providing both knowhow and substantial material assistance to people who were forced out of their homes by the fire. It’s a mark of the company’s modesty and serious commitment to “the other” that Intel did not publicize its role in the rescue effort, and Bahar refused to grant permission to reveal too many details. Suffice it to say that the company went far beyond what one would expect, even from a company with a reputation for social consciousness.

Intel immersed itself in that spirit when it first started Think Positive+, which now has volunteers from many other organizations that have decided to pitch in as well. Currently, the program includes volunteers from all four Intel facilities in Israel – Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Haifa, and Yaqum – and includes volunteers from Marvell, IBM, Agilent, Kodak, Phillips, Cisco, NDS, Ophir Optronics, Factor and Co., JMB, Clear Forest and Zoran. “We also work with local authorities and municipalities to ensure that we are delivering the services they need,” adds Bahar. “Call it a coalition of the committed.”

Think Positive+ is all about giving disadvantaged kids a leg up in math, science, and in some cases, English – all skills that young students need for the high-tech tomorrow. Many schools in Israel don’t have the resources to teach these subjects properly. Hundreds of volunteers conduct one-on-one and small group after-school sessions with mostly high-school and junior-high kids, helping them to understand the material they require to succeed academically and especially to obtain high scores on the matriculation tests that Israeli kids start obsessing over from the start of grade 10.

But it’s about more than just education, says Bahar. “Many of the kids in the program are from weaker families that can’t afford to pay for tutors or extracurricular materials for them.” Kids aspire to what they see around them, and many of the students in Think Positive+ are from families where high-tech success is not even “on the radar.”

Fostering the desire to succeed

“Some of the sessions are conducted inside the local offices of Intel and the participating companies, and the students attending enter the world of high-tech – the offices, the milieu. That in itself inspires them to think about their future, building ambition and a desire to succeed.”

In Jerusalem, for example, 75 volunteers from four high-tech firms conduct sessions in their offices for 105 students from four high schools in the city. “We pick them up from school, feed them lunch, and basically give them an overall experience,” Bahar recounts.

Both the kids and their schools benefit. Think Positive+ is a part of Intel’s worldwide community action program, which qualifies it for official funding from the company. Thus, schools participating in Think Positive+ receive $200 for every 20 hours of volunteer time given to students from each school. In other words, not only does Intel supply tutoring to schools gratis – it pays them for the privilege. It’s for that reason that Ma’ala, an organization that promotes social responsibility in 2009 named Intel as one of the top companies in Israel working to improve society.

Active for only eight years, the program already has thousands of graduates. And while Think Positive+ does not track their long-term progress, or keep statistics on whether they have improved in their studies, Bahar says he knows that the program is doing a great deal of good: “Each tutor builds a relationship with the students he works with, and the vast majority tell us that their students make significant progress in their studies. Think Positive+ does exactly what its name says – it encourages kids to think positively about their future. The rest – the actual success – just follows naturally.”