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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Bridging the digital divide, one laptop at a time


Photo By: Photo by Corinne Finegan Machatzke/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Photo By Corinne Finegan Machatzke/Special To The Town Crier Silicon for Society volunteer and Los Altos High student Jordan Stout explains a computer concept with help from Almond parent and volunteer interpreter Bertha Vera to Almond parent Sonia Garcia.

One day several years ago, then-Los Altos High School student Jack Montgomery and his classmates handed in their AP English papers. The students, by and large, typed their papers on home computers and neatly printed them out. One paper, however, was handwritten.

Montgomery was surprised to learn that day that his classmate didn’t have a computer at home. He and his friend, Tyler Stout, couldn’t believe that in the middle of Silicon Valley, access to technology wasn’t a given.

The two determined to do something to help level the playing field for their fellow students, subsequently launching Silicon for Society, a nonprofit organization that donates computers to those who otherwise couldn’t afford them and provides tutoring to teach them how to use them.

An essential part of the curriculum

Flash forward to a recent Saturday afternoon at Almond School in Los Altos. Two Silicon for Society volunteers – Los Altos High juniors Jordan Stout, younger brother of founder Tyler, and Cole Limbach – ran the second of three computer-training sessions for six Almond parents, all English-language learners.

An equal number of Almond parent volunteers joined them working one-on-one, translating that day’s lesson, “How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation,” from English to Spanish. The previous Saturday’s training focused on basic computer skills such as creating and saving documents.

Some attendees had never used a computer.

As Sonia Garcia, parent of Almond students in the first and sixth grades, related via volunteer interpreter Juan Cesares, “It’s very interesting. I have never taken a class like this and I’m learning a lot. Now I will be able to help my children.”

Almond principal Nancy Davis, who invited Silicon for Society to conduct the sessions for the families, said the school initially focused on fifth- and sixth-grade families, as computers become an essential part of the curriculum in those years. But some of the families receiving the lessons and laptops have younger children, too, so they’ll also benefit, she added.

“We are creating a progressive 21st-century education for our students,” Davis said. “In order to equalize opportunity, we need to ensure access to the tools that support academic success for all students.”

After a third session focused on navigating the Internet and the successful completion of a review test – retakes and supplemental training are available as needed – attendees will receive free laptops delivered to their homes.

Silicon for Society volunteers set up the laptops in the optimal location to access the free Wi-Fi that Google Inc. provides for the city of Mountain View. Attendees also receive a manual and the phone number of a Silicon for Society volunteer for ongoing technical support.

Ongoing training and support

“The most amazing thing is the (Los Altos High students) realized that you can’t hand someone a box and say, ‘Good luck,’” said Janine Wulfsohn, volunteer interpreter at the Almond session and co-chairwoman of Almond’s Translation Committee. “They got from the get-go that you need to also provide a whole series of training. They wrote a manual they use for leading sessions and to train other trainers. It’s a codified, organized class with a specific curriculum. They were just sophomores when they started.”

Wulfsohn said her sixth-grader receives all of his assignments through Edmodo, a private site similar to Facebook. Students are able to ask their teacher questions from home via the site.

“If he didn’t have a computer, he would miss all of this,” she said. “To bring the laptops into people’s homes who don’t have one brings them up to speed with everyone else. At our local middle school, Egan, homework assignments are available online. It’s very hard to be a student without a computer. They have to stay at school after hours to try to finish their work.”

Davis said she sees the program as a win all around. In addition to the families and students benefiting from receiving the technology training and laptops, she sees the student-trainers gaining, too.

“For the high school students who are training others, the benefits are two-fold,” she said. “The students gain a great deal, plus they’re training other young entrepreneurs in teaching techniques and how to continue this essential program.”

Los Altos High School volunteers train their fellow students in computer and Internet use over the course of six 45-minute sessions after school.

“Thankfully, our biggest challenge right now is trying to find students,” Jordan Stout said. “Los Altos is doing well right now, but we need more laptops to help other schools. Our goal is to empower underprivileged youth through the use of technology. A lot of students don’t have the same technology advantages as their classmates. Not having access to technology is a huge impediment to being able to apply to college and get better grades in high school.”

Silicon for Society comprises its two founders, now both in college, several Los Altos High School students and a volunteer at Steve Jobs’ alma mater, Homestead High School. It is affiliated with the nonprofit Los Altos Community Foundation, enabling tax-deductible donations.

Silicon for Society volunteers erase the hard drives of donated laptops and load the Linux operating system. Laptop donations have come from individuals and most recently a local hospice. The group has distributed 30 laptops to date and trained 34 individuals in addition to the six Almond families currently undergoing training.

“I’d like to see it expand beyond our core group of volunteers and to other local schools,” Jordan Stout said. “The more volunteers and laptops we have, the more students we can help.”

To donate a laptop or for more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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