New foundation hopes to increase Juneau students' access to technology

Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A group of Juneau-Douglas High School graduates have started a foundation to ensure the city's youth have the same access to technology in school they had.

Jeremy Hansen, 21, Tyler Gress, 22, and Stacy Montag, 22, launched the Hansen Gress Foundation in October and intend to raise $2 million in seed money by 2008 to generate interest in purchasing new technology for Juneau schools on an annual basis.

"It's ambitious, but we're ambitious people," Hansen said.

The foundation sprouted from the group's business, Hansen Gress Corp., which focuses on developing information technology solutions for small businesses in the community. The corporation came into existence after Gress returned to Juneau from Boise State University in Idaho and joined forces with Hansen's business, Glacier Computer Services, which he had been running since he was a teenager. They started the corporation in October.

"Small business is pretty naive as to what technology can do for them because they are just trying to keep their businesses running," Hansen said. "So we provide an innovative solution for small business to have a long-term technology support solution."

When contracted to conduct a technology assessment of a school, Hansen and Gress got a firsthand look at how outdated the Juneau School District actually is.

"The result of the assessment is we found out 50 or 60 percent of the technology they have ... is the same technology when Tyler and Stacy and I went to middle school 10 or 11 years ago," Hansen said. "It's not adequate technology for doing the things that students should be doing."

Since the assessment, they have been working to help change that trend by creating this foundation.

"It will give a wide, diverse group of people skills and access to technology," Hansen said. "We just want to make sure that the students have the skills they need to drive the future."

Gress said they wanted to begin some kind of foundation to give back to the community that raised them.

"We're essentially the result of good education, and we had good support systems around us," Hansen said.

Hansen said they decided to provide technology for students - allowing Juneau youth to be better prepared for their particular career choices - rather than focus their time and attention on a specific social cause.

"We're hoping that the business community here in town will realize the benefit of students being comfortable with technology when they graduate from high school," Gress said.

The foundation recently received its nonprofit status and is accepting donations from Juneau businesses and organizations. Gress said the foundation is forming a board of directors and will begin a major fundraising campaign in January. He said they also hope to solicit grants.

"When we get up to that ($2 million) goal, the money will be invested by a professional investor and then schools will apply for technology funds," Gress said.

Hansen said the foundation has a high level of accountability.

"We wanted to be well thought-out before we ran out and said, 'Hey everybody, give us money,'" he said.

Gress said he hopes the foundation will help create more technologically savvy young people who will stay in Juneau and help the economy.

"I love Juneau, and I love living here, and I hate seeing the whole brain-drain happening with all of our youth leaving," he said.

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