$18K GE Fund Distance Learning Grant Will Help Fund Pilot Program

Goal of Program is to Engage, Educate and Excite Medically Fragile Students Who are Otherwise Cut Off From their Peers and the Classroom Environment

Several months ago Chris Nafis, a Computer Scientist at GE Corporate Research and Development learned of two fifth grade kids who, because their immune systems were compromised by illness, were unable to attend school.

The only contact the boys had with their school (Okte Elementary School in the Shenendenhowa District) was through an hour of tutoring each day. Nafis, the school Principal, teachers and others, moved by the isolation and separation of the youths from their peers and classmates, went into action.

A plan to apply distance learning techniques to the boys' situation at Okte was launched. The vision was to include the fifth graders in normal classroom activity, ease the kids' loneliness and solitude, and increase their interaction and teaching time through computerization, video, audio, electronic whiteboards, and chat capability.

Achieving the vision has been a model in school / community relations. Time Warner - Road Runner was approached and agreed to donate cable connection services to the boys' homes, GE Elfun volunteers installed computers they had refurbished, the Principal purchased an electronic whiteboard device, GE Power Systems donated computer video cameras, and the Okte School Technology Fund purchased a scanner.

Financial support was sought through the GEFund, which approved a grant for $18K to develop and improve the system. The grant will provide new powerful computers for the classroom and wireless laptops to be used by the kids at home. It will also provide an opportunity for the teachers to share the project with other educators from all over the country at the GE College Bound Summer Workshop.

The pilot project at Shenendehowa provides GE Employees with many opportunities for volunteering. From building whiteboards, to pulling network wire, to rebuilding donated computers, to teaching software application, to mentoring students and teachers. There are infinite ways for GE and community volunteers to keep the "Distance Learning for Medically Fragile Students project on line.

About GE Power Systems

GE Power Systems (http://www.gepower.com) is one of the world's leading suppliers of power generation technology, energy services and management systems with 2000 revenue estimated at $14.5 billion. The business has the largest installed base of power generation equipment in the global energy industry. GE Power Systems provides turnkey equipment, service and management solutions across the power generation, oil and gas, distributed power and energy rental industries.

Jan Smith, 
GE Power Systems 
(518) 385-3072