Rochester Boys and Girls Club and AT&T partner for digital experience

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It is projected that there will be 3.5 million STEM jobs in the United States by 2025.

Seeing this growing demand, organizations are putting their heads together to help prepare and provide the youth with the tools necessary to eventually join and compete in this innovative economy.

For the past two months, more than 40 students ages six through 18 spent their summer learning digital and STEM basics through the “AT&T and BGC Digital Experience.

“Technology was a whole other world to me,” said Ja’Nasia Brown, a student in the Rochester Boys and Girls Club.

Students like Brown participated in all kinds of science activities from experiments and drones, thanks to collaborative efforts between AT&T the Boys and Girls Club.

“Our kids are not tracked into those areas at an early age, so we started STEM at third grade with the hope that when the kids go through the school systems, they also have the desire to be in science, math, STEM,” said Executive Director Dwayne Mahoney.

“Also, from a diversity perspective, it’s really highlighting the lack of kids of color and people of color in the STEM space,” Mahoney said.

In an effort to address equality issues in technology education and to help local students impacted by the digital divide, the two organizations teamed up to launch the region’s first digital literacy and education program.

“The kids are really interested. You walk around to the tables and they are very excited to show you what they’ve built. There’s a lot of energy, there’s enthusiasm… and that’s really the key to a program like this,” said Kevin Hanna, regional director for external affairs at AT&T.

“As we think about the future and we talk about literacy, we must also think about literacy beyond just books but also literacy as it relates to technology,” said presumptive mayor Malik Evans.

“We know that the digital divide is real and COVID I think exacerbated and exposed what many of us already knew as it related to the digital divide, so that’s why it’s so important for corporations like AT&T and others to step up to the plate,” Evans said.

For students like Ja’Nasia Brown, her summer at the Boys and Girls Club playing with things like slime and learning about science made her think about her own future. A future with chemistry, science and art.

“Slime is colors, colors is paint, paint is art and I want to grow up to be an artist,” Brown said.

Thanks to AT&T, the students had roughly $40,000 worth of equipment and supplies to experiment with. The two organizations say the STEM program will resume in the fall, and many of the projects created by the students such as the drones, robots and hoverboards, will be further continued.