Boys and Girls Club gives students a leg up on learning with new program

Dec. 12, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Starting soon, local teens will be able to get science and math tutoring and use specialized labs to learn more about animation, digital music or video production, forensic science, robotics and a load of other tech-related subjects.

And it's all completely free for any high school students who wants to take part.

The Boys and Girls Club of Sanford-Lee County is setting up a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program that will run year-round — in the afternoons after school and all day long during the summer — and still has room for about 40 more participants. Anyone who lives in the county and is in high school can sign up by contacting the club at (919) 776-3525.

Scott Parker, a former Lee County Schools teacher and administrator, is heading up the club's efforts. He said tutoring for STEM subjects will start next week, and the learning labs will open in early 2014.

In the labs, students can use green-screen technology and editing software to practice making everything from commercials to movies. They can study the technology of flight systems. They can learn the basics of composing electronic music, conducting a CSI-style forensic investigation or creating digital animation and graphics.

Teens are already immersed in technology, Parker said, so he thinks these tech-related subjects ought to come easy to them — as long as they're willing to break out of their habits and try something new, even if it requires an attitude change.

"We're trying to take a culture and change that culture and make them believe that they can achieve," he said. "... There's a lot of incredible things that we're going to do. But we need to get these kids outside their box of just sitting around and being mesmerized by YouTube, Facebook, Instagram."

Parker said tutoring is starting now because public and private high schools have exams soon. Then next semester, the labs will start up along with possible field trips to places like the Durham Performing Arts Center to learn about lighting and sound systems, for example. Parker said there will be helpers in the labs, but that the teens will be able to direct a lot of their own work and time spent. There will also be tests two or three times a year to gauge how much progress the students are making.

In a recent international study, U.S. teens scored below or around the average of 65 peer countries in math, science and reading. Math and science scores were especially low and dropped from previous years' scores, while those of most other countries improved.

An emphasis on improving the nation's educational standing has led to the creation of grants like the one, from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which is paying for the new Boys and Girls Club program.

Students who join the program will have access to the labs after school and during the summer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m, and the grant is paying for all the costs — even including snacks and transportation. Parker said students who go through the program will also be able to put a badge on their high school transcripts to alert colleges or employers to the specialized training they've received.

"It's just so neat, all the different aspects," he said. "And the key word for parents is it's free."

In a press release announcing the program, Sherry Shudra, president of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors, said the program will help with education, job skills and character-building.

"We want to give our community youth a competitive edge for technical jobs skills development and help as many as possible to continue their education, whether locally at CCCC or a four-year university program," she said. "This STEM-based curriculum, in conjunction with leadership opportunities, does just that."


What: Free STEM tutoring and technology lab

Where: Boys and Girls Club of Sanford-Lee County

Who: Open to anyone in grades 9-12

How to sign up: Call the club at (919) 776-3525