What does it take to change the world? It may be odd to start a blog post off with a question, but I want my readers to keep this question in the back of their minds as I talk about how Amazon is impacting its community in its home state of Washington.
Not because this story is solely about Amazon, but because it is also about the families, the kids/teens, and the partners of Amazon that come together for the better. It is about all who come together to show that the world is not just full of hate and malice for one another, rather there is love in the world for all to sow and reap.
Amazon’s initiative to impact and give back to its community starts with families and pushes forward to providing computer science and STEM education to kids and teens. I have written before on Amazon’s impact during the fight against the COVID-19 crisis here. In a time where we hit crisis after crisis, I want to talk about the impact Amazon has on its communities.
Mary’s Place Family Center is more than just a homeless shelter
I believe wholeheartedly that there is a purpose for everything. Although it may be difficult to see a silver lining during the bad times, there are no words for when you do see it. Unless you live under a rock or work under a rock, you know that millions of people have moved to work from home (WFH) since the COVID-19 crisis started, and that leaves many business buildings and offices practically vacant.
If we go back a couple of years, Amazon and Mary’s Place, a nonprofit that repurposes vacant old buildings into temporary homeless shelters, collaborated to make half of Amazon’s campus in Seattle’s Regrade neighborhood a new permanent homeless shelter. The homeless shelter is called Mary’s Place Family Center, and the timing of it opening could not have been more perfect. If you remember, our country began shutting down mid-March when schools were just getting finished with spring break. Our country shut down the same time Mary’s Place Family Center opened and provided for the many homeless people and an increase in homeless people caused by the crisis.
Mary’s Place Family Center is a part of Amazon’s eight-story office building divided down the middle. According to Amazon, it has the space to accommodate up to 200 family members each night and 1,000 family members each year. Out of the eight floors, four are for sleeping, and one is a Diversion floor for families with an identified 3—day housing solution. It has a kitchen to provide approximately 600,000 meals per year, and a health clinic, offices, and computer labs. The computer labs and spaces can be used for pro bono legal support, resume reviews, and additional professional services. The top of the building has a rec room and a deck to get fresh air. One of the coolest features of the new homeless shelter is that two of the four sleeping fours are popsicle place floors. Popsicle place floors are specifically for families that have medically fragile children and need support.
It would be an understatement to call Mary’s Place Family Center, a homeless shelter because it is more than that. It is a place where people can sow and reap the love that every human needs and can provide. Moreover, Amazon is donating more than $130 million over ten years to Mary’s Place as well as FareStart, a nonprofit that helps teach food service industry skills to those in need.
Amazon Future Engineer works at the core of the community-kids
Schools have greatly changed within the last 10 to 15 years. Schools are adopting technology now more than ever. With the recent impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on students, it is important that computer science and STEM classes raise up the next generation of engineers and STEM specific professions. That is why I think programs like Amazon’s Future Engineer are so important.
Amazon Future Engineer is a childhood-to-career program aimed at increasing computer science and STEM specific learning for children and young adults who are underserved and underrepresented. It brings subjects like computer science to elementary schools and high schools. It is a four-part program provided in the U.S. and U.K. to inspire millions of kids to explore STEM subjects like computer science.
In the U.S. alone, Amazon Future Engineer has provided over 100,000 young people in over 2,000 schools access to computer science courses. During the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon has partnered with BootUp to give students in all grades access to lesson plans and coding resources to develop coding projects from home. For second graders and older, Amazon Future Engineer is providing free online fundamental coding, and for middle schoolers and up is providing free access to sponsored computer science courses. Not only that, but every year Amazon Figure Engineer offers a $10,000 scholarship towards undergraduate degrees in computer science to 100 students.
One of the incredible parts about Amazon Future Engineer is that it is also teaching teachers. Many teachers are buckling down and learning alongside the students for their students. It is an incredible testimony of the impact Amazon’s Future Engineer program has on the students, teachers, and community.
I can easily testify to Amazon’s Future Engineer program because one of my own, Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman who contributed to this article, has been a part of a similar program with Cisco’s Networking Academy. He has said to me on multiple occasions that he wouldn’t have a love for technology if it wasn’t for the impact that the program has had on him. Although Cisco’s Networking Academy and Amazon’s Future Engineer are not the same, they have the same impact on students. It only makes me wish we had something like this when I was growing up.
There are many other things that Amazon is doing to positively impact its community, like supporting worldwide relief operations following natural disasters. For example, it and its customers have donated more than 400,000 relief items for those affected by Hurricane Dorian in late August of last year. Amazon also says it is enabling customer-directed giving programs by helping customers donate to causes they care about, such as Charity List on Amazon Smile.
It is incredible the impact that Amazon is having on their community, and I believe it all starts with how we sow and reap the love of the world. There is a tremendous amount of love in the world, and right now, it’s a little hard to see. Amazon’s partnership with Mary’s Place and Amazon Future Engineer are two of the best examples- reaching those in need and our next generation. I hope Amazon’s testimony is an inspiration for those who need it and a call to action for those who can.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.