Kelley Ellsworth, Executive Director
SHOCK THERAPY: BYTE BACKFEATURED IN BOARDSOURCE PUBLICATION
Jewel Scott, the Vice-
Chair of Byte Back’s Board of Directors,
recently wrote an article for
, the online newsletterof BoardSource, a nonprofit organization that serves and helps
organize nonprofit boards of directors. Her article, “Shock Ther-apy,” is reproduced here:
Sometimes, we get a little more than we bargain for when weagree to serve as nonprofit board members
and we and ourorganizations are the better for it. I will never forget the lookon the faces of some of Byte Back's board members when, inthe middle of a board meeting, Executive Director Kelley Ells-worth suddenly veered from the agenda and asked all of us toget up from our seats, walk downstairs to our classrooms, andinterview our students. Our assignment: Find out, firsthand, whoour students are, where they come from, how they had heard ofour school of technology, how far they travel to reach our class-rooms, and what they expect to receive and accomplish throughtheir participation in our program.The experience, as it turned out, was priceless
one that a fewof our more reserved members would have missed out on if theyhad been given a heads up or a choice. Thankfully, they werenot. Shocked into action, they, like the rest of us, heard storiesthat we now share over and over again with our friends, familymembers, funders, and donors
stories that we will hold ontofar beyond our tenure as board members. Like the studentswho have been transformed by our organization, we werechanged that day as we learned of the determination andstruggle that brought them to Byte Back. Sometimes, we boardmembers need a little shock therapy to remind us how valuableour organizations are.
Reprinted with permission from boardsource.org. For more infor-mation about BoardSource, visit boardsource.org or call 800-883-6262. BoardSource © 2011. Text may not be reproduced without written permission from BoardSource.
This week we submitted a grant proposal that included the fol-lowing directive:
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder tostart this project.
Well, over the years, the story of Byte Back‟s founding has de-
teriorated like in the game of telephone, so I did not feel quali-fied to write this story with any accuracy myself. I decided togo right to the source. I emailed our founder, Glenn Stein. Tomy surprise, he answered my email within the hour. Glenn ex-plained that he finished college with a degree in Sociology andspent his early career working with community-organizing non-profits, on issues of civil rights, refugees, and arms control. Eventhough he had only taken a couple computer classes in school,he knew the most about computers in each of his workplaces, sohe was always tasked with solving computer problems. In1992, he found himself in New York City, unemployed. He re-wrote his resume emphasizing his experience with computerprojects, and leaving out his credentials with community orga-nizing. Glenn received multiple job offers, and took a positionon Wall Street as a computer programmer
earning threetimes what he had earned previously. Technology, he decided,would become his career, as well as the way in which he couldtransform communities.By 1994, there was talk about doing away with affirmativeaction, and Glenn wanted to combat this change. He understoodthat technology is the only white-collar career where a college
IMPACTING ONE ANOTHER
degree isn‟t necessary to success: you just need to be able to do
the work. Glenn relocated and founded Byte Back in 1998 inWashington, D.C. because the city had so many disadvantagedAfrican-Americans and such a strong IT job market.From the beginning, teachers at Byte Back have been volun-teers, and so the students have impacted the teachers as muchas the teachers have impacted impact the students. During thethree years as executive director, Glenn held a regular technol-ogy job and worked at Byte Back as a volunteer.And now our students, who are still mostly African-American,face new challenges from unemployment, which has ravagedour disadvantaged neighborhoods and spared the affluentones. Some nonprofits have closed their doors, while others have
had to cut back (see “Two Teaching Sites Close”). But our stu-
dents testify about how our volunteers teachers have trans-
formed their lives (“Students Evaluate Byte Back” and “SpringGraduation”). But just as important, our volunteers and partners
tells us how our students and their involvement has changed
them as well (“Shock Therapy” and “Spring Graduation”). The
most glorious moments are when students become teachers,
mentors and donors (“Community Computer Day”
and “AlumnusHosts Fundraiser”).We are so grateful to our wonderful supporters (“Our Corpo-rate Donors” and “Community Computer Day”), partners (“Our
Partnership to Fight Poverty
Community Computer Day”),
our volunteers, and of course, Glenn Stein.