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The year was 1990, Vanilla Ice's hit "Ice Ice Baby" was rocking the radio waves, and the combination of neon MC Hammer pants and a Bozworth Mullet made me feel like the coolest kid in the second grade. Growing up an only child raised by a single mother, after school programs occupied the hours between school's end and the time my mom could retrieve me after a hard fought day of making a living to keep us afloat. Back then you could catch a glimpse of my 90's style on the basketball court at the Boys and Girls Club of America (BCGA), where I spent many afternoons developing the face of my future - as close to Michael Jordan as possible (tongue out and all) - through a BCGA Basketball program.
20 years later...
As I walked through the doors of the Wallingford Boys and Girls Club in the greater Seattle area, a few feet taller and with far less flamboyant style, I saw children socializing in the common areas and a few shooting hoops on the basketball court-but what stood out to me was the largest gathering of kids sitting patiently with a look of anticipation on their face. I couldn't help but wonder if they were eagerly awaiting the opening of their brand new Club Tech - that's why I was there.
I entered the room labeled Club Tech and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic James Duffus, who I learned was a fellow representative from Microsoft and the engineer behind a system we are testing with the BCGA using Windows Multi Point server to best serve the technology needs of teachers and the children they educate.
Below is a clip I captured during the Club Tech opening party where Club Director Nita Smith introduced James Duffus and asked him to describe his team's work with the BCGA Clubs:
When Club Director Nita Smith opened the doors to the new Club Tech, the group of patient kids swiftly filed in one after another to find an empty seat and immediately logged on to the computers as if they had a magic treasure waiting inside their Windows profile. Some kids began playing games on a split screen against each other; a few others Bing'ed the stats to the previous night's Hornets vs. Celtics game. "Ray Allen dropped 20 on 'em last night, they came back from 15 down..." One kid explained to me.
Engaging with these kids and watching their actions using a state of the art technology center, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to my childhood. BCGA was there for me; teaching me skills that were then focused mainly in sports, and helping me fit in as part of a community, cultivating my future as an able member of society. I might not have become a professional basketball player, but the foundational skills that assisted me in my life leading to where I am today; I attribute 90% of this to my mom, but that 10% is a VERY important number as she could not be with me all of the time, so others had to set a good example like the BCGA.
Kids today face the expectation of being technologically literate, as a societal norm. Did you know 23% of American children do not have access to the Internet and more than 8 million American children do not have regular access to a computer? So if this has become the expectation of our society's youth, what happens to those who do not have access to technology? How will they keep up with their peers in an ever changing digital learning environment?
Enter the Boys and Girls Club of America, Microsoft, and Comcast. The Club Tech program gives children access to learn technology as a skill, a part of life, and a means of education. There are over 3800 Club Tech's in the United States providing communities with a place to learn, work, and grow in their use of technology as a tool.
At the BCGA in Wallingford, I met kids wearing this year's equivalent of hammer pants, with the same hope for the future for themselves and from their families that surrounded me growing up; I can't help but wonder who's Face of the Future looks less like Michael Jordan, and more like Bill Gates.
This week help us celebrate the Faces of the Future with the Boys and Girls Club of America, Comcast, and all of Microsoft.
You can make a difference in the digital literacy of today's youth by visiting your local BCGA, and spreading the word through Twitter and Facebook, help us tell everyone about http://www.facesofthefuture.org/ !
*Source for Stats: Source: Child Trends Databank