Creating a space of their own

Technology grant will provide STEM programs at Boys & Girls Club

Thanks to a grant from Samsung and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, local students will have access to technology tools in a comfortable, safe environment after school lets out for the day.

The Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club in Camas recently was awarded the $25,000 grant for a new technology center. It is one of 10 clubs in the United States selected for the honor.

Amber Barnes, unit director for the Camas club, has been brainstorming with coworkers for months about how to create a space for older students that suits their needs and interests.

“This is so much more than we could have ever done on our own, and the timing is just perfect,” she said. “We have a really solid group of middle and high school members who are coming to the club every day and are dedicated to our programs. This new space is going to enable us to provide even more enriching STEM programs for them.”

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The ultimate goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in those subjects at an early age, so that it is beneficial to them when they enter the job market.

The local club was selected through the Boys & Girls Club of Portland for the honor.

“We chose Jack, Will and Rob because of tween and teen population attending (the program) and the great relationship between the club and the Camas School District,” said Erin Cunningham, vice president of operations. “There have been some really great changes there in the past year, and we want to continue to keep kids off the couch after school.”

The center will be approximately 375 square feet, almost triple the size of the current teen room.

Carter Oosterhouse and his team will design and install the new space, with help from Boys and Girls Club members. Oosterhouse is known for his roles on TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” and most recently, HGTV’s, “Million Dollar Rooms.” Work will begin later this week and is expected to wrap up in mid-December. A “big reveal” party for members and their families is in the works for Tuesday, Dec. 16.

The space will be filled with several top-of-the line, high-tech gadgets, Barnes noted.

She added that since the members have a say in the room’s design, she is hoping that they will also be excited and motivated to utilize the resources and programs that come along with it.

“When our youth are engaged and excited, our communities benefit both now and long term,” Barnes said. “In addition, with the increase in space and resources, we will be able to offer programming to even more middle and high school aged members, and grow our program even further.

She continued, “Our younger members will also be able to utilize the space at certain times for age appropriate STEM programs and as they grow up with us, will get to utilize the space and tech programs when they are in middle and high school.”