Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.”
It is this popular notion that the team at InfoTrust embraced after an introductory presentation in 2018 by local (Cincinnati-area) nonprofit organization, Adopt A Class. Fifteen individuals were required to be assigned a class. But, in true InfoTrust fashion, so many wanted to be involved that two classes were claimed for the upcoming school year. The InfoTrust team was matched with two 7th grade classrooms at Hartwell Elementary and the fun began.
Adopt A Class, founded in 2003 by business owner Bill Burwinkle, connects business professionals and students in low-income districts to increase exposure to different career types. Burwinkle’s desire was to be involved in the community—not simply just writing checks.
With its “give to grow” InfoTrust Foundation mission at its core, InfoTrust decided it wasn’t just about writing checks, either.
“At InfoTrust, we are responsible for being someone else’s miracle,” InfoTrust Software Engineer and Adopt A Class InfoTrust Foundation Co-Coordinator Michael Stadtmiller says. “We look for opportunities to make a difference in our communities to positively change the outcomes of other people. Adopt a Class helps us safely connect with children in Federal Title 1 (free and reduced lunch status) schools. This gives us the platform to present new topics, introduce job types, and companies that may be foreign to the kids. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Our hope is to empower the students to feel capable of setting and reaching new goals.”
Each month during the school year, the InfoTrust team meets with the 45 students to connect, engage, and learn from one another. Due to COVID-19, meetings have been online. Prior to the school restrictions in place, as one of the first activities, the InfoTrust team worked with the students to create Google Sites to show off some of their favorite things and introduce them to analytics. Behind the scenes, the InfoTrust team set up Google Analytics and, after some traffic, presented what could be learned from the data. The team also talked about InfoTrust clients and how InfoTrust analysts help them understand their data to connect with consumers.
Additional activities have included:
- Creative thinking: At InfoTrust, the team is often required to think differently to solve a client’s needs. To introduce this concept to the students, the InfoTrust team played a game with them called Snake Oil. A personality card card is drawn (firefighter, ballerina, Santa, etc.) for the group to think like. A small group of students are given 4–5 items (hero, ladder, ice, flood, magnet) and need to choose two to create a product to pitch to the class. The class votes on the product they like best. An Ice-Magnet is a powerful product for Santa wouldn’t you agree?
- Interviewing skills: Any business professional will be more prepared if they have a better understanding of the interview process. Interviews are about connecting two parties and seeing if there is a match. The students and InfoTrust team broke into small groups, answered some questions to highlight the best parts about themselves, and had mock interviews.
- Have fun: When COVID-19 hit, the world changed—especially for students. With increased stress and zoom fatigue from online learning, the InfoTrust team wanted to be able to break up the day and have some fun with games like Kahoot! (online polling game), Snake Oil, and other modified multiplayer games that worked well online.
In 2021, the hope is to return to in-person visits, as well as to welcome the classes to the InfoTrust office for a tour and field trip in 2022.
For Stadtmiller, seeing a spark in students—or when something “clicks”—throughout the Adopt A Class meetings is his favorite part of volunteering.
“Our goal is to make a difference by increasing exposure and education,” he says. “When a student gets really interested in a topic and lights up, it feels like we’re making progress. It can range from excitement when they create their own website, to finding common interests with InfoTrusters over anime. The active involvement and engagement is what feels the most rewarding.”
InfoTrust Head of Talent Acquisition and co-coordinator for this foundation outreach project Lisa Wilms says that the best part about partnering with Adopt A Class is seeing the students engage with the InfoTrust team and ask questions.
“Sometimes the questions can seem small (like what someone’s favorite video game is),” she says. “But, sometimes they can be about what we do as a company, or what kind of pay we have. Although we don’t spend a ton of time together, the InfoTrust team very much looks forward to the time together. And, I would like to think that they enjoy it, too.”
Wilms has become personally invested in the InfoTrust team getting involved with Adopt A Class because she wishes there would have been something similar available to her as a young adult.
“As a first generation college student, when it came to pursuing a career I was a bit lost,” she says. “Although my amazing parents taught me a great deal, when it came to choosing a career path, this was not something they could offer much support on. I wonder how different my career would have turned out if I had more role models like Michael Stadtmiller, Trish Dhotkar, and Seth Rujiraviriyapinyo to look up to and learn from. I hope there is a little Lisa in our classroom that ends up pursuing a very interesting, well-paying, and fast-moving career in analytics just because they had an initial introduction via Adopt A Class.”
At the end of the day, the goal for the InfoTrust team is to provide education and exposure, with the goal of making a dent in breaking generational poverty, to their two classes. “Many kids see career success as being a basketball player, singer, or actor,” Stadtmiller says. “We’re hoping to expose exciting new career options, as well as present new life skills and cultures that the kids may not have been exposed to before.”