Gail Leach Carvelli
The founders of NetDay `96 had one thing in mind when they created this volunteer initiative in 1995--to wire and cable schools throughout the country so that students and teachers could gain access to the Internet and its resources. And according to the organization`s cofounder, Michael Kaufman, the project has done just that: More than 20% of all classrooms throughout the nation have been wired through NetDay projects. Now the NetDay organization has established its 1997 activity date--April 19.
"It has been an extraordinary year," admits Kaufman. "It is difficult to say exactly how many volunteers participated, but we can say that NetDay has taken place in every state in the United States, and the District of Columbia."
Formed in 1995 by Kaufman of the Public Broadcasting System and John Gage, the chief science officer for Sun Microsystems (Mountainview, CA), NetDay `96 started as a simple e-mail message sent to encourage installers to volunteer their time to cable schools so that students and teachers could have access to the Internet. The project was initially launched in response to the Clinton Administration`s call for all schools to be wired by the year 2000.
The first project was held in California last March 9, with more than 75,000 volunteers spending the day wiring more than 4000 schools. North Carolina established its own projects in August and September, with a training session for school organizers to learn how to wire schools. Then, in October, when nearly all the other states were beginning their NetDay projects, volunteers in North Carolina wired more than 6000 classrooms in 900 public and private schools.
This type of participation has made NetDay successful and well-known, say its founders. "Our goal has been to jump-start this type of activity, with the hope and expectation that individuals would become involved and form communities that would stay involved for the long-term," Kaufman says.
To do this, the level of awareness must be constantly raised. The organization does this through a detailed World Wide Web site located at www.netday.org. The site features the latest news through a NetDayNews column, upcoming events, kit-ordering information, bargains on materials, and volunteer information, as well as success stories from volunteers.
While every state participated in the 1996 project, the exact number of volunteers and the project`s far-reaching impact are still not known. A comprehensive survey will soon go out to state organizers to assess their understanding of success in each state. "We should get a clear indication of what happened this year," says Kaufman. "And we will publish the results as soon as we get them."
For more information about NetDay, or to find out more about this year`s initiative, visit the Web site, or call (800) 556-3896.