Given the lighting speed with which we are able to consume information today through a multitude of devices, most people believe that access to information is not an issue.  Yet seven million youth in the United States alone are in the dark, with no access to a computer or a mobile phone, seven million who will not access Facebook, Twitter, Skype or Bing.

Over the last decade Microsoft has supported the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) to set up technology centers and bring what was a swim and gym club into the 21st century as a center for digital access and learning.  There are now nearly 4,000 of these technology clubs in America and and on U.S. military bases abroad.  They collective serve five million kids annually.  However, as technology advances many of the Clubs are now becoming outdated and need a technology refresh and upgrade. 

Last year Microsoft and Comcast took on the challenge of creating a model Club Tech Center of Excellence at select BGCAs across the US where we can show how each community can come together and upgrade their Clubs to provide youth the latest in available technology.

To date we have supported the refresh of ten model centers in the United States and I was very fortunate to open the latest Center of Excellence in Denver last week along with the Dick McLean, Mayor of Brighton; John Arigoni, President and CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver; Michael Clark, General Manager, West Region Corporate Accounts at Microsoft and a BGCA Denver Board member; Jon Roskill, Corporate Vice President of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft and BGCA of King County Board member; and many other local community leaders.

The opening of the new Center of Excellence in Denver

The centers incorporate the latest Microsoft software, a freshly designed space conducive for creative and collaborative work, and an expansive Club Tech curriculum such as newly added robotics programming and game development. In addition to the refreshed space and equipment, what was so exciting to see was the involvement of the community at large with local business and political leaders all committed to seeing the Boys and Girls Club become a place of excellence and create an environment for young people to learn and thrive by having access to the latest in digital and multimedia equipment and skills.

It was thrilling to see how excited the youth were to get into this new center of excellence.  After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the kids all rushed in to experience the equipment.  The enhanced technology center will provide these young people with access to next generation technology that is fun to use and in addition to providing technical skills, encourages critical thinking, project management and problem-solving skills which translate into future job readiness and leadership capability.

On a personal level, the highlight was a very young girl coming up to me and giving me a very long hug thanking me for bringing her this gift.  It was clear that for her and for all of the young people in the club this was a true investment in their future.

Akhtar