Author Archives: Storey Blackwell

Tech, Inspiration, and More Tech at South-by-Southwest Interactive

Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Brittany Arthur (l to r) show their dominos while looking through the SXSW Interactive schedule and planning their day.

Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Brittany Arthur          (l to r) show their dominos while looking through the SXSW Interactive schedule and planning their day.

In 2013, Topplers took the first step in our dream to expand the Domino Award, by adding Awards at University of California at Irvine and University of California at Santa Cruz to our long-running program at University of Colorado. The three winners from the award joined Topplers and Domino Award founder Herb Morreale for an all-expenses paid long weekend of tech, inspiration, and more tech this past spring at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

“What’s so amazing about this opportunity is that it allows you to take inspiration from things that you might have never imagined yourself taking inspiration from.” -Alex Tsankov

What better place to inspire these bright students to think about the impact they can have on the world through technology, than at a giant conference and festival attended by inspirational players in their chosen field of computer science. As Steven James Snyder of TIME said, “that’s still what makes South By Southwest Interactive an indispensable gathering of the minds – that this isn’t just a place focused on individual inventors or celebrities but on societal advancements. One impressive pitch here can be the starting point for a process/product that will change the way we communicate, vote, volunteer, and live our daily lives.”

Brittany Arthur, Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Herb Morreale (l to r) meet Ryan Holmes (center), CEO of Hootsuite.

Brittany Arthur, Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Herb Morreale      (l to r) meet Ryan Holmes (center), CEO of Hootsuite.

With a schedule packed with multiple presentations, panels, meetups, workshops, and exhibitions spread over multiple venues, choosing what to see was a hard task, but the award winners gamely made the most of their time.

They attended some great presentations including a presentation from Stephen Wolfram, Founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, who spoke about the implications of advances in technology on product development, industry, and research. Keynote speaker, astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, inspired with his unique insights about the universe around us, just before the debut of his television show Cosmos.

They also spent time exploring at the Create exhibit hall, where the latest advances in technology, like 3D printers, quadcopter drones, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, are being used for new and exciting applications.  Among the meetups and companies available to meet with, a highlight was meeting and talking to Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite, a fast-growing and highly respected company in the social media space.

Having fun in Austin.

Having fun in Austin

“I like talking to people who are in the industry. Everyone is so inspiring. It’s really cool to think that you have a team and you are working on a project that is so personal to you. It sounds exciting!” – Brittany Arthur

Beyond their time exploring the conference halls (collecting as many t-shirts as possible), listening to engaging talks, and meeting with their tech heroes, Nithin Jilla (UC Irvine), Brittany Arthur (UC Santa Cruz), and Alex Tsankov (CU Boulder) took some time to enjoy all that SXSW Interactive had to offer: having their picture taken with Success Kid, “crashing” a few industry parties, spotting Shaq (yes, that Shaq), and catching some local music that Austin is so famous for.

Nithin gets serious with Success Kid

Nithin gets serious with       Success Kid

“This experience has given me an opportunity to already help people. I’m hoping that this will lay the foundation for future opportunities where I can help serve others and make an impact.” -Nithin Jilla

A big thanks to all of our 2013/2014 Domino Award sponsors Adeptive Software, Applied Trust, ClickBank, and Gold Systems, whose generous support made this inspiring trip possible.

Posted in Topplers Domino Award, Topplers News.

Finding a cheap place to rent

Finding a cheap place to rent

Keep this number in your mind next time you’re looking for a place to rent: 29. That’s the number of homes deemed affordable for single people on Youth Allowance or Newstart. They looked at stats for rentals on the weekend of 1 2 of April this year.

Of the more than 67,700 properties listed on market in metropolitan and regional parts of Australia, just a handful were affordable for young people whose sole income is from support payments.

Not one single property was affordable if you lived in Western Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, http://www.cheapjerseys11.com/ Sydney or Brisbane. Central Queensland had the most affordable properties but even then there were only eight in the region.

Single people earning the minimum wage (around $35,000 a year) have a few more options, but not many.

“Singles on a minimum wage could find 1,914 suitable rentals, equating to 2.83 per cent of the total private rentals on the snapshot weekend,” the report said.

Tackling renters’ rightsAnglicare reckons insecure housing is a major problem, too. A report out earlier this year found that a massive number of renters live under the threat of eviction meaning they’re more likely to put up with crappy accommodation and high amounts of rent so they won’t get kicked out.

And as Hack reported, young people are the most likely to report rental discrimination that is, that landlords discriminate against them because of their age.

Anglicare wants a new blueprint put in place that spells out renters’ rights, so that people feel more secure in their accommodation.

Housing affordability is likely to be a key part of this year’s federal budget, due out on May 9.

Back up how do you decide what’s ‘affordable’?Generally speaking, if you’re paying more than 30 per cent of your income on rent, and you’re in the bottom 40 per cent of national incomes, you’re considered to be in housing stress.

For low income people, rent is a major expense.

If you’re over 18, single with no children, and live away from home, you get $437.50 a fortnight (or $11,375 a year) in Youth Allowance.

If you’re single with no children, you get $535.60 a fortnight (or $13,925.60 a year) in Newstart.

Around 781,000 Australians are on Newstart, and around 275,000 young people are on Youth Allowance, according to the most recently available figures.

The Anglicare report found that these people are the most disadvantaged in the private rental market.

“The survey shows that a single person on Youth Allowance and Newstart would find it almost impossible to find an affordable home anywhere in Australia, whether regional or metropolitan,” the report said.

Affordable rentals for any single person on government pensions were essentially non existent.”

Single parents, cheap jerseys and people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) don’t fare much better.

“No properties were available for a single parent on Newstart in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart or Brisbane,” the report said.

“Only 586 or 0.9 per cent of properties Australia wide are affordable for people living on the DSP. There were no affordable properties in Sydney, Brisbane or Darwin; only 2 in Canberra and Hobart, 4 in Adelaide and 5 in Melbourne and Perth,” it said.

What can be done about rental affordability?It’s important to note that this report only looks at private rentals. So public housing that is, housing provided by the states and territories isn’t included.

Anglicare lists a few recommendations for how to make the private market more affordable.

Firstly, it wants government payments for things like Newstart and Youth Allowance to be increased.

At current levels, income support payments are trapping people in severe rental stress, leaving people in a situation where they have to trade off other things essential to their health and wellbeing in order to pay rent.”

It says pausing Youth Allowance payments for an additional four weeks a proposal that first popped up in the 2014 federal budget but has yet to pass the Senate would have a devastating impact on people already doing it tough.

Anglicare wants the creation of a new affordable housing corporation, so that community housing can be built with government backing. Something similar already exists in the United Kingdom.

It also wants the Government to wind back tax concessions like negative gearing and capital gains tax and pour the money saved into community and public housing instead.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Topplers 2013 Annual Report

2013 Topplers Annual Report

2013 Annual Report coverDear Friends,

Our BIG dreams in 2012 led to some big work in 2013, crafting plans and systems aimed at scaling the Topplers model to help us reach more people than ever before.

The Domino Award was expanded to two additional universities, reaching thousands of computer science students and awarding this expanded prize to a bright group of students. Higher Achievement inspired a class of graduating high school seniors to think about the impact they can make on the world, and awarded multiple book scholarships to help them realize their college dreams. Making A Difference launched its pilot program with Dakota, an inspiring teen fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia who wants to see more Random Acts of Kindness in the world. 

We have learned a lot of valuable lessons from our expansion and piloting of our Branches and are ready to do more. With a plan in place to grow our community and reach more people who want to help make a difference in the world, we are building a dynamic new website set to launch in 2014.

Thank you for your continued support and for keeping up with us as we tackle our Big Idea of helping Set Big Things in Motion.

-The Topplers Board of Directors

Posted in Topplers News.

Got 2 Hours to Help a Student Succeed?

Mapleton school district is seeking volunteers to help on with their Mock Interviews. Volunteers sign up at a schooInterviewl of their choice, helping prepare students for professional and college interviews. It’s easy to participate and a great way to help a student get great feedback to help improve their interview skills.

See the attached form to sign up for one of these sessions:

Thursday, February 20th 2-4 pm Mapleton Early College

Tuesday, March 11th 8:15am-10:00am Academy High School

Tuesday, March 11th 10:00am-12:00pm Academy High School

Tuesday, March 11th 1:00-3:20pm MESA High School

Thurday, March 13th 8:45-11:10 am Global Leadership Academy

Friday, March 21st 8:30-11:45am York International

Friday, March 21st 12:15-2:25 pm York International

Wednesday, April 16th 10:30- 11:00am North Valley School for Young Adults

Thursday, April 17th 10:30-11:00am North Valley School for Young Adults

Wednesday, May 14th 10:30-11:00am North Valley School for Young Adults

Thursday, May 15th 10:30-11:00am North Valley School for Young Adults

Mock Interview Sign Up Sheet 2014

Posted in Higher Achievement, Topplers News.

Be The First to Get an Invitation to the New Topplers Community and Get a Free Domino

Pretty dominos croppedWe’re excited to share with you our latest project here at Topplers – an engaging new community website that will make it even more fun and easier than before to help set BIG THINGS in motion!

Sign up for an invite to this community using at join.topplers.org – the full community experience will launch later this spring!

As a member of the Topplers community, you:

  • Will receive a commemorative Topplers Domino
  • Will enjoy showcased stories of passionate people and the causes that inspire them
  • Will see easy suggestions for helping those people make a difference in the world
  • Will be able to invite your friends and others to join the community and lend their help
  • Will see the impact of your actions – Topplers tracks your progress along the way!

It’s free to join and reserve your Domino at join.topplers.org

Sign up today to receive an invitation to join the community this spring.

Posted in Topplers News.

The Travels of Domino #3453

1452370_10151749580242267_1931349199_nWatching a Domino travel as it inspires person after person to do a Random Act of Kindness, is amazing as it is fun. Inspired by Dakota I sent Domino #3453 out into the world and love seeing the updates. I passed along this domino to a friend, telling her how Dakota’s story had inspired me to take action. My friend, in turn, passed along the domino with Dakota’s story to her friend.  Reading about the travels of the domino, show how Dakota’s story is inspiring others to help her reach her goal of 100 Random Acts of Kindness. Here’s hoping that domino keeps up the momentum:

&lquo; I received the Domino from my coworker who shared the details and story =) Upon receiving it, I invited our neighbor (who recently experienced a difficult breakup) to mass and coffee with my wife and me on a Sunday morning. We talked about the experience and it seemed to be good timing to help lift his spirits!
&lquo; My dear friend, Ashley, gave me Dakota’s domino and explained the program while we were on a beautiful summer hike at Hessey Trailhead. I was really touched and of course wanted to be a part of things. I am so sorry it has taken me so long! I brought the domino and card with me to work last week, thinking it would be a good inspiration to do something on one of my breaks. Today, I was out for a stroll on the 16th street mall. I saw a Denver Voice vendor open the door for a gentleman in a wheelchair leaving a store. I thought this was very sweet and polite of him, so in return for his good deed I bought a paper from him 🙂
&lquo; It was a surprise treat when I received this domino from Storey. We were catching up, sharing what we’re passionate about in our lives and giving each other encouragement for our endeavors. So, when Storey handed me the ” domino” I was excited to share the spirit of random acts of kindness. I thought about what I’d do for some time and then one day In an ” act in the moment” I was reminded of the domino – and of Dakota. I saw a car trying to pull out of the gas station. I waved him on and we had this great exchange of smiles and waves like we were old friends; a nice reminder that we don’t need to be strangers on the road.
&lquo; I’m excited to be part of Dakota’s Random Acts of Kindness. For this domino I stopped to let a car cross the highway after watching for 5 minutes up the traffic jam that no one was letting them through.
Posted in Making A Difference, Topplers News.

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Posted in Uncategorized.

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Posted in Uncategorized.

More Random Acts of Kindness Inspired by Dakota

Dakota’s story has been spreading! Be sure to check out the Topplers webpage for updates on the Random Acts of Kindness that Dakota has been inspiring. Here are a few more highlights that we’ve seen:

In Denver, campbece just claimed domino 3453.

&lquo; My dear friend, Ashley, gave me Dakota’s domino and explained the program while we were on a beautiful summer hike at Hessey Trailhead. I was really touched and of course wanted to be a part of things. I am so sorry it has taken me so long! I brought the domino and card with me to work last week, thinking it would be a good inspiration to do something on one of my breaks. Today, I was out for a stroll on the 16th street mall. I saw a Denver Voice vendor open the door for a gentleman in a wheelchair leaving a store. I thought this was very sweet and polite of him, so in return for his good deed I bought a paper from him 🙂

In Henderson, Leanne just claimed domino 3377.

&lquo; I received this Domino from Victoria, an amazing friend and someone who knew how much I would love this type of project. I know a young woman who was moving out of her shared apartment to live with her younger sister. Her former roommate had owned most of the household items. She had a bit of furniture but no kitchen items. Her plan was to use her student discount at Goodwill and slowly get what she needed. I texted her one day telling her to meet me at Wal Mart and not to ask any questions. When she arrived, I set her up with a shopping cart and told her to go pick out her new kitchen. She started crying right there in the isle. She was thrilled, as was I to see her so happy and thankful of the gesture. Random acts of kindness warm my heart and soul. Thank you Dakota for inspiring others.

In Louisville, herb  just claimed domino 3449.

&lquo; I’ve been waiting for a moment of inspiration to add a random act to Dakotas branch. I started carrying the domino in my pocket in hopes that it would remind me that all it takes is a quick simple decision to make an impact. Today it wasn’t much: I gave $10 to a guy holding a sign at an intersection. But he definitely appreciated that it wasn’t simply $1. And my daughter got to enjoy the moment with me. More to come but it feels great to be helping Dakota see her big idea becoming a reality.
Posted in Making A Difference, Topplers News.

Checking In With Our Book Scholarship Winners

Half-way into the fall semester, we checked in with our 2013 Book Scholarship winners to see how they’ve adjusted to college life. We were excited to hear that they are thriving and finding ways to overcome the financial challenges of paying for their educations:

I’ve been doing great! I’m loving the college life thus far. It isn’t a really big transition for me because I believe that all the habits I created in my previous years in high school have made this transition smooth for me. College requires hard work, organization, and dedication, and I was making sure that those requirements were fulfilled with the habits that I created in my junior and senior year. For example, using a planner and creating a to-do list really helps. This scholarship is a very big part of aiding my purchases of books. I’m a bio major, so the thick science books that cost $150-200 a piece really was a struggle. Thanks to Topplers, I had $350 off of the total of the text books that i purchased which took up about 30% of my total costs for books. This goes a long way and I’m very appreciative of your help.

 

I’m doing well. Stanford is definitely very different from high school but all the changes are exciting and refreshing. I have a job on campus as a freshmen liaison, organizing events for El Centro Chicano. I am also trying out for the Polo team (though I’ve never ridden a horse), playing with the scatter band, and on the competitive cross country club team. The opportunities here are vast and
it’s incredibly hard to choose between all of the amazing experiences available.

As far as challenges go, it has been a little hard for my family financially because my father had a stroke around three months ago and was out of work for two months. The Topplers scholarship has been very helpful already in covering my book expenses for this quarter and more than likely the next quarter (maybe the whole year if I’m thrifty). It has also been interesting and a bit challenging to find time to sleep amid all the chaos and excitement!

Again, thank you so much for the help and your generosity! I’m sure the MESA seniors this
year will benefit immensely from your contributions!

Posted in Higher Achievement, Topplers News.