There was happiness and excitement in Atlanta and in Yokneam, our partnership city in Israel, when “Yo-Tech,” a Federation-supported initiative, won first prize in Machshava Tova — a national competition challenging teen entrepreneurs to create innovative “apps.” Machshava Tova, which means “good idea,” is an Israeli nonprofit organization with a mission to give underprivileged populations access to technology in a supportive and empowering environment. The ultimate goal is to help at-risk youth develop skills that will help them find careers in Israel’s booming high tech sector.
Our winning six-member team from Yokneam was one of just ten groups from different cities to reach the finals. They presented their app to a panel of ten judges via Zoom because of the Covid-19 regulations. Their app, called “Old School,” connects teens and seniors who share the same interests and hobbies, and matches them to connect either virtually or face to face. The teens can help seniors with tech challenges, or simply spend time with them in order to overcome loneliness. Each of the six teen winners will receive a laptop from Citibank Israel.
“This program gave me so much,” said 16-year-old Gavriel. “I was interested in computers because I know it’s the future, but I never had a chance to learn it. I have learned a lot of cool stuff about using the computer, how to speak in front of an audience, to cooperate with my friends, to work with deadlines and so much more.”
Lori Kagan Schwarz, who is Federation’s new board co-chair, was part of the committee that helped conceptualize and fund the “Yo Tech” project. She said, “I’m so honored to play a small part in the Yokneam teens’ accomplishment. It’s so fulfilling when we see a direct connection between the meaningful work we do around the table in our meetings and the outcomes on the ground, especially halfway around the world.”
Craig Kornblum, who chairs Federation’s Global Jewish Partnership Committee added, “This is one of the programs created by our committee to engage and inspire the youth in our partner region. I’m so proud of these kids!”