The Rotary Boys & Girls Club/Mentor Center, at 1100 SE 17th Drive, unveiled its $25,000 Cox Technology Center on Tuesday. In attendance were Cox Communications officials, Boys & Girls Club Alachua President Keith Blanchard, Florida Rep. Keith Perry and about a dozen children already at work on the computers.
“The Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County plays such a vital role in our community,” said Kevin Monroe, executive director of operations for Cox Central Florida. “Throughout the school year and during the summer, the club provides a safe and educational environment for our youth where they can spend time with other youth and with caring adults who enrich their lives and help build their character. Cox is very proud to have this long-term partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County. We are pleased to help Clubs achieve their goal of exposing children to the latest technology and to help children continue to learn and grow even when they’re not in the classroom.”
Boys & Girls Club Technology Centers consist of state of the art computer equipment, including desktops, monitors, laptops, printers, docking stations, wireless routers, wireless cards, and proprietary Microsoft and Club Tech software. In addition, Cox provides free high-speed Internet to the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County and nationwide within the Cox footprint as well as monetary and in-kind sponsorships for many local events and initiatives.
“Our partnership with Cox Communications is important in today’s society, where a child’s success in life may be determined by exposure to technology. The computers and other assistance by Cox provide a means for Boys & Girls Clubs to close the technological achievement gap for many disadvantaged youth. We greatly value that partnership,” said Keith Blanchard, President & Chief Professional Officer for Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County.
The technology centers are the centerpiece of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Club Tech program, which provides students access to curriculum to advance their computer literacy skills. They also help bridge the gap for kids who have no access to a cell phone, computer or an Internet connection at home. The children can use the Tech Center computers to communicate with teachers, check grades, complete assignments and even print school reports.
“Every kid in this room has the chance to be the next leader, or the next businessman,” said Rep. Perry. Technology centers like the one unveiled are just another step toward creating a seamless city, he said, where everybody has access to the kinds of technology that they’ll need to compete and the opportunities to excel.
Local design firm Neutral 7 designed mural and graphics posted around the center. After coming in, examining the space and quoting prices, Neutral 7 owner Albey Coronel realized the team’s ideas were outside of the center’s budget, so Neutral 7 paid for half of the cost.
“It’s always nice to be involved and give back to the community. We’re always looking for those opportunities,” Coronel said. “They put our name on the door, so that’s pretty cool.”
Blanchard said that the center was the result of over a year’s work and a realization that technology was going to be an important factor in the future success of the children they oversee.
“Usually, when you ask them what they want to do, this is it,” he said. A group of children have already learned to film and edit video, which they’ve used to create thank you videos for Big Lots and Micheals donations. “Having access to things like this is huge.”