AT&T and Boys & Girls Club Digital Experience program kicks off in Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As science, engineering, technology and math jobs increase, this week AT&T and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester kicked off the first free digital literacy and summer education program.

Right now it’s projected that there will be 3.5 million STEM jobs in the US by 2025.

However several industries are still struggling to fill the jobs they currently have and AT&T and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester are getting a head start.

“Especially in this day and age of social justice, this is really to us a form of social justice in a sense that our kids are being exposed to this area,” said Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester Executive Director Dwayne Mahoney.

Mahoney said it’s a free, two-month first of its kind STEM and digital literacy program aimed to help close the diversity gap.

“I think our kids are starting behind the 8 ball,” Mahoney said. “Digital literacy gap is really wide particularly those kids that go to suburban schools and catholic schools and compared to kids that may go to school in the city.”

The program will provide 40 underrepresented students ages 9 to 18 across Rochester the chance to gain new skills.

“Assembling drones, how you fly them, how a drone and a controller talks to it so that you have some type of wireless communication going on. Robotics is another important piece if you think about advanced manufacturing in other industries,” said AT&T Director of External Affair Kevin Hanna.

Hanna said it’s about equality and making sure everyone gets a chance.

“When you look at people of color it’s typically 10% or less so if you’re black or Hispanic you are much less represented in the stem industry in terms of the educational component,” Hanna said.

Students will also get first-hand experience in the real world, going out with professionals on field trips throughout the community.

“What happens is when a kid gets exposed to somebody in the company or they get a different vision of what’s possible and then they start to track back to maybe I should be taking these particular classes because I wasn’t and I’m interested in that type of profession potentially,” Mahoney said.