In an odyssey that has carried her from Waveland to Washington State and from small-town Mississippi resident to a program manager at software giant, Microsoft Corporation, and emerging author, Sara Ford has also risen as an outstanding donor to a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Foundation scholarship fund. The Save Waveland Scholarship Fund enables any resident of Waveland to attend Gulf Coast. Ford made an initial outlay of $12,000 to the fund in advance author royalties for her new book, and agreed to donate the rest of her author’s royalties for the book, “Microsoft Visual Studio Tips.” Microsoft offered to match her initial outlay of $12,000. The book is scheduled for release on Oct. 15, 2008.
“I was raised with the belief that community is about being excellent to each other,” Ford said. “This book and this donation are my way of connecting the community I came from to the community I work in. In my life, I’ve always had a quest for knowledge. Now this scholarship fund will help others pursue their own quests.”
After seeing her hometown devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Ford felt the need to do something positive for her old friends and neighbors. Her parents, Louie and Jane Smolensky, still live in Waveland. Their house was severely damaged. The school where Ford finished high school, Our Lady Academy, was severely damaged but did reopen. Many other landmarks familiar to Ford were completely obliterated.
“After witnessing the devastation [in Waveland] first hand six weeks after the storm,” she said. “I vowed that I would one day do something that would make a difference. With Microsoft matching the donation, I feel that day is today.”
Ford said she selected Gulf Coast because of its proximity to Waveland. “I attended a semester at the Jeff Davis Campus prior to starting Mississippi State, where I double-majored in computer science and mathematics. [Gulf Coast] seemed like a natural fit for the scholarship fund.”
Jean Scafide, a computer science instructor at Gulf Coast, taught Ford while she was a student at the Jefferson Davis Campus. Scafide, who is from Bay St. Louis, said she has known Ford and her family for years. “I can tell you, she is absolutely brilliant. I can’t believe she is 30 years old and already finding ways like this scholarship to give back to her community. She is truly exceptional. As a student she was full of life and liked to think about big ideas. Sara was always very clever and creative with her [computer] coding.”
She is not surprised that Ford wrote a book of tips. “Sara is a program manager for CodePlex, Microsoft’s open source project hosting site. She operates a very popular blog (Web log) through Microsoft that offers tips on Visual Studio. That is where she got the idea for the book.”
Ford’s book offers time-saving, productivity-increasing tweaks and tips for working in Visual Studio IDE. It has received rave reviews already. “Over the past year, I received numerous email messages from my blog readers requesting that I put my Microsoft Visual Studio tips into a book,” Ford said. “I started work on the book itself in July 2008. I haven’t really slept since.”
For more information about the book, http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/13221.aspx. Additionally, Amazon.com is offering a presale of the book for those who can’t wait.