It was all about the youth at the dedication for the new technology lab at the Boys & Girls Club at the Cleveland Park Community Center this week. Dan Jernigan, president & CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, kicked off the event by honoring the collaboration of Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Comcast and the Boys & Girls Club to make this possible. “Today really marks a true celebration of organizations coming together for the betterment of our youth,” Jernigan said. “The most important people in here, and I think we’ll all agree, are the youth,” a statement that was met with applause.
Comcast announced a generous grant of $45,000 towards a new technology lab that will serve more than 150 children who utilize the Boys & Girls Club at Cleveland Park, along with the My.Future program, an initiative that aims to provide youth with the necessary skills to thrive in today’s world and teaching them about internet essentials such as online safety for children of all ages.
“The more that we engage young people in closing that digital divide, the more likely that they will choose careers in STEM [science, tech, engineering and math],” Jernigan said, revealing that the Chamber of Commerce had released information that Nashville’s STEM income growth leads in the U.S. “What [is] better than to give our kids the opportunities to learn about STEM [via] the Boys & Girls Clubs.”
Jernigan then introduced Comcast’s Vice President of External Affairs Andy Macke, who helped ensure funds for the lab, and also praised the partnership of Nashville’s organizations. “This facility here is really indicative of a great partnership between Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation and the Boys & Girls Clubs that really support the future of Nashville’s youth. And we’re certainly proud to be a part of it,” Macke said.
Since 2011, Comcast has connected more than 6,000 families to the Internet by partnering with many community organizations on internet essential programs. In addition to describing the new computer lab as a “necessary continuum of connectivity” from school to home, Macke also touched on the My.Future program, which he says helps students become fully engaged with technology and explore careers in robotics, digital journalism, video game design and more. “It’s those experiences that could enrich these kids’ lives and truly prepare them for the future that is ahead of them,” he said of the experiences they get from My.Future.
Mayor Megan Barry continued the positive energy when she briefly took the mic, honoring all the community organizations that came together for the event – and then stepped away from the podium to address the children directly. “It’s my pleasure to get to stand up here and talk to you all about your future, because that’s really what this is about,” she told them, referring to the lab as a “tool” that will help them in reaching their ambitious goals.
Engaging them on a personal level, Mayor Barry asked the crowd of youngsters what they want to be when they grow up, with responses ranging from doctor and lawyer to football player and singer – and one ambitious goal that Barry is very familiar with – becoming the mayor. “I love it that you all have dreams. I love it that you all are thinking about what you want to do in your future. And I love it that you’re part of the Boys & Girls Club because they’re going to help you realize those dreams,” she said.
Macke, along with every other official at the event, made it clear that the new technology center – and the evening as a whole – was all for the young students. “This announcement here is about you,” he said. “It’s about you and having the opportunity to explore all the options that are available to you and to have a better understanding of what interests you and to recognize as you form those dreams, there’s a lot of people here to support you to realize those dreams.”