Nvidia ditches holiday party in favor of helping San Jose school

SAN JOSE, Calif.

The work is about halfway done. The baseball fields are among the things getting a makeover. Mounds of dirt and piles of sod are ready to go.

They're certainly not used to this kind of work, but they're having fun.

"I'm enjoying it," Nvidia employee Jane Guan said. "Yeah, I'm learning. I've learned a lot about how to cut the paint, you know, and using the roller in the center."

Santa Clara chipmaker Nvidia is ditching the holiday party. Instead, the company is using the money and 1,500 of its employees to help transform a school.

San Jose's Ocala Middle School is getting everything from a resurfaced blacktop to new baseball fields. The principal says it was in desperate need of a makeover, as most of it was rundown.

The students caught a glimpse of the improvements before heading out on a field trip.

"They were asking, 'what? Is that going to be for us?'" Principal Oscar Leon said. "'Yes, it's for you, this is for you, the community is doing it for you.'"

The cost of the project is over a million dollars, paid for by Nvidia, the city of San Jose and the Alum Rock School District.

The idea came up shortly after 9/11. One of the company's founders, Chris Malachowsky, says throwing a holiday party at the time just didn't feel right.

"We all could eat dinner at night, we all had good jobs, we all knew we were employed in the morning, and to go out and celebrate didn't seem like the right thing," he said.

The idea stuck even as the economy improved; defying the stereotype that not all so-called techies are entitled, self-absorbed, and socially unaware.

"I guess just with all the flashy buses and the free lunches it maybe gives a bad impression," Nvidia employee Greg Bodi said. "But I think we're all good people and we try to give back to the community as much as possible."

And no one has any regret about not having a company party.

"If nothing else, we're actually bonding better," Nvidia employee Nasa Rouf said. "Right? A party's a lot of fun, but here you have a different kind of fun."

Having fun while helping those who need it most.

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