Boys and Girls Club

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Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a program that was introduced in the 1860’s in Hartford Connecticut. “Believing that boys who roamed the streets should have a positive alternative, they organized the first Club. A cause was born.” Now made up of more than 4,300 clubs and in their 103rd year, the goal of these clubs is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”

Boys & Girls Clubs across the country offer a range of programs that, according to the organization’s website, “Boys & Girls Clubs of America has a lineup of tested and proven nationally recognized programs that address today's most pressing youth issues, teaching young people the skills they need to succeed in life.” Programs are offered in the areas of education, the environment, health, the arts, technology, careers, alcohol/drug and pregnancy prevention, gang prevention, leadership development and athletics with the overall desire for the children to “reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” In the 1990s, Boys & Girls Clubs began using computer labs and technology-related access and learning opportunities into their activities. This paper discuses the opportunities of the role of technology in the after school programs and the preparation of youth for the 21st century workforce by improving technical skills along with reinforcing positive social development. Technology in Boys & Girls Clubs is providing computer access for many youth who wouldn’t have technology access. It is being used to build technical skills and improve other learning goals. Computer use shows that learning and the technology of modern society are essential to the mission of clubs. “A computer enables users to search and access data bits anywhere on the planet. Multimedia audio and video material is readily available to entertain and inform. Email provides for interpersonal communication complete with multimedia attachments in seconds instead of days.” (Wiki) In other words, technology is just another tool used to create an environment where kids can play and grow. Technology gives energy and importance to the overall effectiveness of clubs in promoting solid youth development of the children of the 21st century. We are now in an age where a new set of technical skills are required, not just industrial age skills plus computers. To create a new path for youth into middle class jobs, an entire range of skills needs to be developed. Boys & Girls Clubs are creating environments where youth are developing their technical confidence as well as nurturing other which will help them adapt to the changing workforce. Program design should build on understanding the ways technology help youth development and how those skills support what the 21st century workplace needs. Clubs represent important access points for deprived youth who need information and communications technologies as much as they need libraries and books. “Access at the clubs is important because children did not have adequate access at home and in other places, such as schools, libraries and friends’ homes. Access at clubs was also highly treasured because youth could ask questions of knowledgeable and trusted adults, both about the technology and the subject matter they were researching.” (Sharon) The opportunity clubs provide is also important to families. Parents like knowing that their children are learning with computers and spending time in an environment where that learning is balanced with playtime, sports and exercise.

In the late 1990s, The Boys & Girls Clubs began collecting many technology sponsors. Some of their sponsors include Microsoft, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Intel Computer Clubhouses, Best Buy, and the Todd Wagner Foundation’s Miracles Academies. "Creating programs that inspire and engage kids to pursue careers in technology is not just a good thing to do, it is an...
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