The Columbia North YMCA on North Broad Street is now home to a new center that will empower young people in Philadelphia by providing access to technology and improving technological equity in the community.
The Best Buy Teen Tech Center, which opened in May, aims to empower young people in Philadelphia to use technology to explore, experiment and create. It will serve as a collaborative art and innovation space, a leadership training center and a safe community space.
Youth in the region will have the opportunity to develop their skills through hands-on activities that explore their interests in programming, filmmaking, music production, design and more, with the aim of largely leading the students when deciding where they would like to place their attention and concentration.
“The YMCA measures success by its impact in three areas: youth development, healthy lifestyles and social responsibility. This Teen Tech Center is a perfect marriage of these areas of interest and offers endless possibilities to empower young people in our area, ”Shaun Elliott, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia YMCA, said in a statement.
The Center is the result of a partnership with Best Buy, whose foundation awarded a grant; and The Clubhouse Network, which implemented a model to provide safe and creative learning environments for students outside of school.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital divide and technology shortages facing many communities in the city.
A Philadelphia School District 2019 Survey found that only 45% of students in Grades 3 to 5 had Internet access at home. For students in grades 6-8 and 9-12, the numbers were 56% and 58%, respectively.
This level of access made it difficult for many students in the city to follow learning, socialization and engagement.
When schools in the area began to close in the first few months of the pandemic, the city and school district teamed up to help make distance learning possible for all students. This included more information on broadband access availability and spend up to $ 11 million at supply thousands of Chromebooks Kindergarten to Grade 12 students who need it.
The Teen Tech Center hopes to be another valuable additional resource in addressing the digital divide and technological inequalities in the city, as well as providing a safe new community space as in-person learning returns for the 2021-2022 school year.
“We are thrilled to be working with such a strong local community organization in partnership with Best Buy to establish a warm and welcoming learning space for teens to express themselves creatively,” said Gail Breslow, Executive Director of The Clubhouse Network, in a press release. .
Philadelphia now joins more than 30 other locations in North America as part of Best Buy’s initiative to bridge the digital divide across the continent. The goal is to have more than 100 different centers and to reach at least 30,000 adolescents by 2025.
Best Buy investment provides professional camera equipment, all-in-one desktops, full music and production studio, 3D printing, virtual reality equipment, smart home technology, tablets design, professional-grade software, and staff support, all with the goal of helping students engage with technology on a deeper level.
“Each location strives to reduce technological inequalities by giving adolescents access to technological education opportunities, relationships that help build confidence and a foundation for academic and career success,” said Andrea Wood, Best Buy’s vice president of social impact, in a statement.
The Columbia North YMCA Teen Tech Center is located at 1400 N. Broad Street and is open to all teens ages 13-19. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. More information can be found here.