The MOUSE Story

Here’s how MOUSE began:

“It all started in the spring of 1997, when I was running Irving Plaza and serving on the local community board,” recalls Andrew. “I was asked by the head of the local business improvement district to visit Washington Irving High School and see what I could do to help out the school. This was back around the first ‘NetDay,’ which was a big effort nationwide to connect schools to the Internet.”

“The school was not in good shape. Most of the students were on subsidized lunches, meaning they came from poor backgrounds. I was shocked to discover kids typing on IBM Selectrics, and not a single computer in the whole school. So, with my own money, I got the school a highspeed T-1 line, which back then cost something like $6,000 a year, found some donated computers, and emailed ten friends asking if they would come on a Saturday to build the school a computer room and connect it to the Internet.”

“Two weeks later, nearly two hundred people showed up. Inspired by their enthusiasm and desire to bring technology to New York City’s public school kids and make sure no one was left behind, I founded MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education).”

MOUSE Squads to the rescue!

“While we started out focusing on wiring schools to the Internet, and did about 75 of them, we quickly learned that it wasn’t enough,” Andrew adds. “The teachers and students needed support and training. The technology had to work, too.”

Indeed, think of how often city students hoping to use a computer hear the phrase, “the network is down.” Or, “the printer isn’t working.” The Department of Education has an $85 million service contract with Dell that has a huge gaping flaw—most classrooms don’t have phones in them, so teachers can’t call Dell when they need help.

With this sort of problem in mind, Andrew says, “we created MOUSE Squads, groups of ten students trained by a teacher, who learn to maintain their own school’s computers and run their school’s technology help desks.” The average MOUSE squad provides 24 hours a week in technical assistance to their school.

“Today, almost 1,000 students a year are MOUSE Squad members, supporting 89,000 students and 6,000 teachers and administrators in nearly 100 schools,” Andrew notes. “And the technology works in their schools. Which means more learning moments for all the kids.”

Transforming lives

But that’s not the whole story. In the nearly eight years since Andrew founded MOUSE as a non-profit focused on innovative education technology efforts, the program has won accolades, saved the city millions of dollars, and, most importantly, transformed lives.

“I like it because it helps the school,” a sixth-grade student at the Secondary School for Journalism told the Daily News. “And it taught me how to fix computers.” A MOUSE Squadder at John Dewey High School said, “It was actually like a real job. We had to make sure we took care of all the [problem] tickets, be on time for the meetings, plus we have to keep up with all of our school work, so we gained much more responsibility.”

“Ninety percent of the MOUSE Squad students graduate from high school and go to college,” Andrew points out. “This shows what can happen when you connect kids with technology.”

Winning praise

City leaders from Mayor Bloomberg on down agree the program has made a big difference in all kinds of ways.

Says Bloomberg, “MOUSE’s efforts to bring technology resources, instruction and programs to schools in all five boroughs gives our young people the training necessary to be successful in today’s information age.”
Congressman Charles Rangel says, “MOUSE is committed to serving the educational and professional needs of underserved youth, and poised to unlock the potential for these students to be vibrant and valuable members of our communities.”

Saving taxpayers millions

“For every dollar invested in these programs, the city has saved $4,” notes City Councilman Eric Gioia of Queens.

Indeed, with MOUSE squad students installing computers, printers and operating systems as part of their educational experience, the city is currently saving about $1.2 million a year that would have otherwise gone to pay costly technicians.

Serving the underserved

MOUSE has been making a difference, especially in those places where access to technology can’t be taken for granted. In 2003-04, 76% of students at MOUSE schools were eligible for free or subsidized lunch, 75% of the students were Latino, Asian and African-American, and 38% were female.

Ann Wiener, the principal of the Crossroads School says, “For a small middle school with aging computers, keeping technology up and running is impossible. This has hampered teachers and their curriculum and as well as keeping the low-income, high-need students at Crossroads from gaining the skills and experience in technology so crucial to preparing them for high school and college.

She adds, “MOUSE has stepped in to fill these gaps; classroom curriculum is enriched, our technology system is much improved, and our student MOUSE Squad has been empowered by their new skills and knowledge.”

Looking to the future

Along with his partners on the MOUSE board and the group’s talented staff, Andrew has been instrumental in fostering MOUSE’s development. (He resigned his position as chairman of its board of directors this spring, when he launched his campaign for Public Advocate.)

The group has received many prestigious grants from private foundations along with the New York City Department of Education and the New York City Council. And Microsoft has licensed its MOUSE Squad training curriculum for use all over the world through its global Partners in Learning Initiative, with all the royalties returning to support its programs here. The MOUSE Squad program has now expanded to 8 states and 20 countries.

“When I walk around this city in 2005, I feel the same way as I did when I walked into Washington Irving High School back in 1997 and saw those students on electric typewriters. The city of New York is disconnected from the opportunities of the 21st Century,” Andrew says.

“Just like those students were the most under-utilized resource in those schools and we empowered them through MOUSE Squads, New York’s own people are its most under-utilized resource, and I want to reinvent the Public Advocate’s office to empower them.”  .

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