Back-to-school with centers of technology excellence

It’s back-to-school this month for nearly 56 million K-12 students in the U.S. Many will participate in afterschool programs that offer supervised activities for children of working parents or caregivers and providing developmental opportunities to urban and rural youth. Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) is a great example. Their Club Tech afterschool technology program is now in its tenth year and recent studies by the University of Washington and others indicate that the program has positively impacted youth served by promoting learning and helping to retain and increase membership.

Boys & Girls Club Centers of Excellence

To celebrate the success of Club Tech, BGCA and Microsoft – a founding sponsor - are refreshing the model in selected sites to encourage further innovation and replication. With additional support from new partners, Comcast and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, BGCA has recently launched five sites known as Centers of Excellence to create a vibrant look and feel and update the technology and curriculum.

The first Center opened in May at the historic Dunlevy Milbank Club in Harlem, where Bill Gates and then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton first launched Club Tech 10 years ago. The Harlem event was followed by four other openings during the summer in Chicago, Washington, DC and Puget Sound. This fall five more Centers are planned in cities across the East, Midwest and West region, including Atlanta not far from the BGCA national headquarters.

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Grand Openings last month at the Bellevue BGC and the Smilow Clubhouse at Rainier Vista attracted enthusiastic audiences of Club members and friends. Robbie Bach, Microsoft executive, and chairperson of the national BGCA Board of Governors, and longtime Bellevue Boys & Girls Club board member, was a keynote speaker for their opening, along with Jon Roskill, Microsoft executive and Boys & Girls Club of King County board member. Roskill also spoke during the events at Smilow Clubhouse and in Harlem noting that “today’s kids are using technology in new ways not dreamed of even 10 years ago when we first launched Club Tech.”

To meet that challenge, the goal of Club Tech is to empower young people to do well in school and to prepare them for success in a 21st century workforce. Thus, the Centers provide kids with state-of-the-art Microsoft software and new hardware in a dedicated space to foster creativity and teamwork along with cutting edge training and education for Club Tech Staff. Instruction in areas such as creating a resume, designing websites and restoring computers will be combined with activities to develop critical thinking, project management and problem-solving skills.

Each Center of Excellence includes designated, specially designed instructional and exploratory zones:

  • The Instructional Zone - a traditional lab space where youth will learn and master technology fundamentals
  • The Exploratory Zone – a space designed for team project work using advanced technology and skill sets to help teens become experienced technology users

During the past decade, more than 3,600 Club Tech locations have opened in the U.S. and on military bases worldwide, serving close to 1 million kids each year. These Centers of Excellence are intended to have a positive impact on the next generation of youth as they develop skills and confidence about their future outlook.

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