Social justice networker

sears

Andrew Sears, EE’95, connects thousands of volunteers and interns with social service projects across the nation through TechMission. (Photo by Alonso Nichols)

When he was president of the Student Council at S&T, Andrew Sears, EE’95, leveraged technology to connect student governments all over the country by forming the National Student Government Internet Headquarters, an online resource for information exchange. Today, Sears is still using the Internet to connect people — but on a greater scale, and for a greater purpose.

As the executive director of TechMission, a Boston-based non-profit, Sears connects thousands of volunteers and interns with social service projects across the nation. The organization also operates City Vision College, which offers online courses and bachelor’s degrees in urban ministry, addiction studies and nonprofit management.

By harnessing the power of the Internet, Sears hopes to tap into “the largest social network in the world” — 2 billion Christians — to help eradicate poverty.

“If the Internet can be used to connect millions of buyers and sellers,” says Sears, “then why can’t it be used to connect the resources of the world to help the poor?”

Merging technology with spiritual matters is a passion for Sears, who approaches social justice issues with an entrepreneurial flair. He founded TechMission in 2000 with its first program, the Association of Christian Community Computer Centers, or AC4. Through AC4, Sears focused on trying to bridge the so-called “digital divide” between the technological haves and have-nots. The organization provided computers and training for hundreds of Christian community centers, mostly in urban settings.

“If the Internet can be used to connect millions of buyers and sellers, then why can’t it be used to connect the resources of the world to help the poor?”

Through that experience, Sears discovered deep-seated issues that computer hardware alone could not solve. “There’s a more fundamental educational gap beyond the digital divide,” he says. “If people can’t read, they’re not going to be able to use a computer.”

That’s when he set about using technology for “connecting people with the poor,” in the words of TechMission’s tagline.

Last year, Sears’ organization connected 13,630 volunteers with more than 5,000 ministries and social service agencies through a volunteer-matching website called ChristianVolunteering.org and TechMission Corps, which is an AmeriCorps urban internship program.

But by combining his passions for technology and service to the poor, Sears discovered his true mission.

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