NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2000 — Mike Raymond, executive director of the Taunton, Mass. Boys & Girls Club, calls the three-room, 70-station technology center at the club a godsend.
“A lot of the kids that we serve don’t or will never have computers in their homes, which puts them at a real disadvantage with other kids,”
“The tech center levels the playing field a little bit.”
Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, and U.S. Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton talk to Jason Flores in a computer lab at the Dunlevy Milbank Childern’s Center in New York City. Gates was at the center to announce Microsoft’s donation of $100 million in cash and software to help 3.3 million children and teens by providing technology access and programs at Boy’s and Girls Clubs nationwide.
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today announced a contribution of $100 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B & GCA) to fund the
initiative, a joint program between Microsoft and B & GCA that will help put technology centers like the pilot program in Taunton in every Boys & Girls Club across the country. The contribution will create learning environments for the millions of young people who use the clubs by offering access to the latest available information technology. Boys & Girls Clubs of America President Roxanne Spillett and first lady and Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Gates in making the announcement.
“Technology can change the way our children learn,”
“Every child deserves access to this valuable medium so that they can expand their horizons and opportunities now and into the future. Microsoft is proud to partner with an American institution like B & GCA to help bridge the technology divide for more than 3.3 million children.”
The Microsoft grant of $12.3 million in cash and $88 million in software over the next five years will support the development of curriculum, programming materials and training for staff and youth, and it will provide the clubs with state-of-the-art Microsoft software. This contribution will allow B & GCA to integrate technology throughout its facilities to augment and enhance existing program areas, including arts, education, career development, health and life skills, character and leadership development, and fitness and recreation.
“Microsoft’s gift was beyond our expectations,”
said Ed Mishrell, vice president of program services with B & GCA.
“Giving these kids a basic set of skills for using technology will make a huge difference in their lives.”
Between now and the end of the year, 108 clubs will receive the technology they need to start a tech center. After that, Microsoft and B & GCA expect to launch approximately 500 new tech centers a year, over five years, until all of the Boys & Girls Clubs around the country and overseas on U.S. military bases have technology components.
Last year, Microsoft funded a $1.6 million project with B & GCA to establish pilot technology centers at 15 clubs, including Taunton, Mass. Each center is outfitted with networked PCs with high-speed Internet access, plus a complete suite of Microsoft software such as the Encarta multimedia encyclopedia, Encarta Africana, Microsoft Office 2000 and numerous titles in Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus series. The pilot centers are equipped with laser printers, digital cameras and other hardware devices. Trained staff members are available to assist young people with software and Internet use.
“What we found through the pilot program with B & GCA was that kids want to spend time after school doing things that are intellectually stimulating,”
said Chris Jones, Microsoft community affairs manager.
“Young sports fans, who a year ago wouldn’t leave the gym, were in tech centers waiting in line in some cases to get on the computers.”
The technology center in Taunton is divided into three rooms with separate areas for high school, middle school and elementary school students. Located within 20 miles of five urban areas, the Taunton club since 1902 has served a population of young people from one of the most depressed areas within the surrounding community. Before the tech center was installed, the club could only offer its young clients the use of several outdated computers. According to Raymond, this created an
situation where kids would have 15 minutes to use a computer before another child tapped them on the shoulder to use the machine.
Children at the Boys & Girls Club in Taunton, Mass., learn computer skills in the club’s technology center. The
At the current tech center, waiting is not a problem, and Raymond also notices older kids often taking the time to help younger ones. Sometimes the peer-to-peer instruction goes even further. According to Raymond, the mother of a child who doesn’t live far from the club was visiting regularly to see what her child was doing. The mother had never used a computer before, so her child brought her into the tech center and actually showed her how to use one of the machines.
“Even some of the kids with tougher behavior, they get in the computer lab and it’s almost like someone waved a wand over them,”
“Their behavior improves because they’re involved in an activity that they enjoy.”
Some of the new activities that Club Tech will create in each facility include: homework-assistance programs that provide online tutoring and other resources to supplement what is available to kids through school; job readiness programs that help kids prepare resumes and learn interviewing skills; virtual museum tours of some of the world’s greatest museums; and investment clubs that teach kids about securities, investing and money management.
Club Tech will also create national-level programs to help link young people in different clubs. These include: Web-based access to national laboratory telescopes as well as weather satellite and astronomical data; collaborative writing programs where kids from different clubs work together to write stories and plays; national poetry, prose, art and video competitions among clubs; and a national youth summit aimed at addressing character and leadership development issues.
“I applaud B & GCA for looking ahead to see that we can’t just provide recreational activities to keep kids occupied after school,”
“The culture of the clubs is changing from one that was primarily recreation-oriented to one that is focused on technology and learning.”
According to Raymond, Taunton’s tech center has already changed the focus of the club.
“Kids have a lot of out-of-school time, and we want to make sure that they’re well-rounded to the degree that they’re also exposed to more educational activities.”
B & GCA comprises a national network of more than 2,600 neighborhood-based facilities, serving some 3.3 million young people annually, primarily in underserved communities. Known as
“The Positive Place for Kids,”
the clubs provide guidance-oriented programs on a daily basis for children 6-18 years old, conducted by a full-time paid professional staff.
“The Club Tech program is one of the largest Microsoft donations ever,”
said Bruce Brooks, Microsoft community affairs director.
“It complements Microsoft’s national philanthropic program strategy of empowering people to discover and create a better future through technology.”
Other Microsoft programs that seek to increase access include: Libraries Online, a program through which Microsoft contributes software to public libraries in disadvantaged areas; Working Connections, a program that supports information technology training for underserved populations through community colleges; and NPower, an association supported by Microsoft that brings the benefits of technology to communities by strengthening local nonprofit organizations.
The younger children at the Taunton Boys & Girls Club use the computers for playing games, listening to music and chatting with their friends online. Ashley, 10, is creating a Web site that includes pictures of people at the club and her favorite games. But what she likes best is drawing, which she does using Microsoft’s Creative Writer, a program with easy-to-use drawing, painting and publishing tools specifically designed for kids.
The Taunton tech center is fully ingrained into the club’s activities.
“We kind of wonder what we did without it at this point,”
“It’s working wonderfully.”