Virginia Pinnock Scholarship Fund, Inc.
She is the President of Connecticut Council of the Blind (CTCB), which is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), she is the Chair for 2018 GDUI Convention Program Committee, and she is a Guide Dog User. Her trust partner and friend is Anders. For many years, Andrea and Anders the A-Team has provided helpful tips and training for students and teachers about how to respond and respect the work of a Guide Dogs, there are not just pets they are working dogs, they are on duty, on the job. She also offers her service and knowledge to the CT bus drivers, fire department, and others. So no matter how cute Anders is, we should not distract, pet, or call his name. Andrea teaches the students of Hartford Public High School about braille and each year she types the students and teacher’s name in braille. What she shares is invaluable, and she has improved our confidence and approach towards guide dogs. Students have testified that the information they’d learned from the Andrea and the A-team has helped them know what to do downtown Hartford and on the city bus.
The Birch Group, LLC and The
Engineering Challenge for the 21th Century Program
Why I do what I do
I was having coffee with a friend, who has a Ph.D. in Engineering, at my kitchen table some 16 years ago. We were having a conversation regarding his engineering skill set and my leadership and teamwork development skills. At that time, we decided that we should combine our talents and do something in the High Schools to help inner-city school students develop a passion for engineering and technology. Thus, the Engineering Challenge for the 21st Century Program was born. We carefully selected five top-notch community college professors and high school teachers specializing in Math, science, and technology to help present various mathematical engineering skills to the students.
Today, the Engineering Program is well known nationally and we have received continuous funding from the National Science Foundation since the program’s inception. For the past 16 years, we have presented the ETC Program to well over 2,000 students throughout the cities in CT, holding at least one program specifically for Hartford students enrolled at Hartford High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology.
People have often asked why my team and I are willing to devote at least 18 Saturdays per school year to provide inner-city students with a unique and often “Life Changing” opportunity. Some of them are as follows:
All of us truly love working with our targeted inner-city and underrepresented students. In fact, loving the students and the ability to teach effectively were the two top criteria for the being chosen. We find them extremely respectful and fun to work with. The students have profoundly changed the way that we view the world.
- There is not much better than when we see the “lights go on” in the students' eyes when they finally realize that they are smart and talented enough to go on and continue their education at community college or university.
- Principals have told us repeatedly that when students finish the ETC Program, their grades improve as well as their attendance, they walk taller, they speak more clearly, they apply for acceptance at institutions of higher learning and they feel much surer of themselves.
- We learn so much from the city school students who are grateful for the experience. Their lives and perceptions are so far apart from their suburban counterparts.
- The student participants are from diverse populations with each bring interesting stories which are often shared with the group.
- Students continue to contact me years after completing the ETC Program, thanking me for all that they learned, particularly in regards to changing their self-image, how to communicate and work with people that are different from them using the DISC Behavioral Model, how to adapt to college and corporate cultures and how to effectively use the SolidWorks engineering software package.