Mountain View Voice

News - September 30, 2011

'Home' is where the grant is

New Google program keeps focus on local causes

by Nick Veronin

A new philanthropic initiative from Google, called "Home, Sweet Home," has employees of the Internet search firm picking local causes they would like to see their employer to support. In its inaugural year, the grant program will be lending a hand to three causes in Mountain View — Theuerkauf Elementary, the Computer History Museum and Bicycle Exchange — according to representatives from the company.

Various other organizations and schools throughout the Bay Area also received Home, Sweet Home grants, said Heather Spain, community affairs manager for Google. Each of the three local grants were for $15,000 and were awarded for programs that support science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education.

"Supporting STEM education locally and early makes all the sense in the world to us," Spain said, noting that the company has a vested interest in building "strong foundations" in STEM education. "We really believe that is important and we really believe that it is important to do in our own backyard."

The grant to Theuerkauf will be used to fund a once-a-week, after-school science club for fourth- and fifth-grade students, according to Principal Connie Vasquez-Sawdey.

"We're elated," Vasquez-Sawdey said of the grant. "We believe in extending our student's day for education in science and the arts."

The club will help approximately 25 students explore three branches of science: physical, life and Earth, the principal said. They will also learn about alternative energy by working on hands-on experiments with the school's large solar panel, which was installed with money from the PG&E Solar Schools Program.

She said she was pleased to see Google reaching out and helping out in Mountain View. Large companies have an obligation to contribute to their communities, she said.

The grant to the Bicycle Exchange — a branch of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition — will also support STEM education, according to Google employee David Fork, who co-founded the organization in 1993.

The Bicycle Exchange, located at 2566 Leghorn St. in Mountain View, is a volunteer-run organization that takes unwanted bikes, repairs them and either donates them to charity or sells them to help support its operating budget.

Volunteers of all ages learn about mechanics and bike repair when they work for the Exchange, Fork said.

"Recently, we've been having a lot of high school students to come and volunteer at their events," he said. High school students can earn community service credit working at the Exchange. "It's a good learning environment for young people."

Finally, the grant to the Computer History Museum will help fund the organization's "Investigate Innovation" program — where students from the Mountain View Whisman School District may come and learn about technology and its history with hands-on activities, Spain said.

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