Boys and Girls Club offers an inspiring space

New technology center opens at the Jack, Will and Rob Center in Camas

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Anticipation filled the air as celebrity craftsman Carter Oosterhouse led a group of blindfolded middle school students into their new Tween Tech Center.

The students, members of the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club in Camas, had no idea what to expect.

Giggles and excited chatter echoed through the hallways as they walked into the new space.

“This is pretty much the coolest room in the United States and you get to check it out today,” Oosterhouse said.

When the blindfolds were removed, screams and shouts of “Amazing,” “Oh my gosh” and simply, “Wow,” could be heard.

The new 375 square foot center is filled with kid friendly gadgets such as Samsung tablets, laptops and a flat-screen television with a live chat function. Comfortable chairs, a couch and brightly colored cushions and pillows are scattered about. Oosterhouse, known for his work on TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” and HGTV’s “Million Dollar Rooms,” designed the space, with help from JWR members.

“Oh my gosh, this looks so good,” declared 12-year-old Sam Schober. “You wouldn’t believe how trashy this place was before. It was just a big storage closet and half the size that it is now. I am going to be using the computers a lot to play games.”

Bailey Green, a student at Jemtegaard Middle School in Washougal, described the new center as “colorful and modern.”

“I feel like I am hanging out in my own room,” she said.

Her friend, Sierra Hobson, has been coming to the club since she was 6 years old.

“This went from such a small space to a big, open area,” she said. “It is amazing and comfortable.”

The center is designed to spark kids’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and prepare them for life in the professional world. The project was funded by Samsung and includes the latest mobile devices for learning.

The club will also receive custom STEM curriculum and eBooks on Samsung devices, including 20 Galaxy tablets, 10 laptops and a SMART TV.

The STEM curriculum, “Building Blocks,” is designed to assist educational and literacy goals, and encourage club members to work together and invent creative, engineering-based solutions for community needs.

JWR was one of only 10 clubs from across the country selected for a new technology center, through a national partnership with Samsung and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

“I love this space because it feels very interactive and innovative,” said Kimberly Boyd, vice president of program and youth development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

“The kids can come and work together and create. The TV is equipped with a camera so they can connect with clubs across the United States. This is intended to inspire them in many ways.”

Mike Nerland, Camas School District superintendent, noted that the new technology center is a great resource for students.

“What a generous contribution from Samsung,” he said. “The whole JWR Center is providing a place for our kids to go after school is out and this adds to that program immensely. It will be a benefit to the community for years to come.”

Camas Mayor Scott Higgins was on hand to read a proclamation declaring Tuesday, Dec. 16 as Youth STEM Day.

“This is exciting,” he said. “It is another of those great wins for the community. It is all about the kids and we expect them to use these tools to produce greatness.”

Erin Hubert, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro, described the technology center as a welcome addition to an already beautiful club.

“We are so glad to be here today and it is so exciting to have everyone here,” she said. “This room will serve so many kids and the opportunity is so special.”

Oosterhouse spoke to the crowd and emphasized that he is a big believer in shared spaces, where users can both learn and play.

“I am pleased to have been a part of this whole thing,” he said. “Coming to Portland and then over to Camas to work with you guys was especially great. I hope you enjoy this. Love it and take care of it.”

Amber Barnes, JWR unit director, described feeling “ecstatic” when she first saw the new space.

“It is going to be such an exciting space for the kids and it really fits their needs,” she said. “It feels really fun and flexible, with the tools to cultivate their creativity. It’s an inspiring space, not just a space.”