I've been lucky. Real lucky. I grew up in a middle-class home and always had access to technology. While I may not have had the latest computer or top-of-the line equipment, I always had access and that is what is most important. Most people know that low-income youth in America face a myriad of issues, including lack of nutritious food options, fewer educational opportunities and exposure to violence and drugs. But, in an age when so many of us are literally "connected" 24/7, it may seem surreal that 23% of U.S. kids don't have access to the Internet and more than 8 million don't have regular access to a computer. Unfortunately, these statistics are real and that is why Comcast is so invested in helping increase digital literacy and access to technology.
As the Executive Producer of Comcast's online customer portal (Xfinity.com), I see just how important digital literacy is to our economy and the future of our children. Employers expect job applicants to be digitally competent and without these skills, young people will have limited employment options.
On Monday, April 11, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) kicked off their "Faces of the Future" campaign to get the word out about the technology access issue and raise money for Club Tech, a program designed to bring technology access and skills training to children across the United States. Currently, nearly one million kids and teens participate in the Club Tech program every year at more than 3,600 Boys & Girls Clubs around the world. In 2009, more than 800,000 young people were served through the Club Tech programs and resources.
Last year, Comcast joined Microsoft as a national sponsor of the Club Tech program, and over the four years ending in 2013 will provide approximately $50 million of financial and in-kind support to BGCA and local Clubs across the country. In 2010, Comcast provided $1.4 million to 90 local Clubs, in addition to $18.5 million of in-kind support in the form of PSA airtime and donated products. In addition to supporting BGCA's Club Tech program, Comcast has donated computers to create labs in many of the clubs and has also provided key grants and financial support to other BGCA clubs and events.
When I joined the corporate board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia (BGCP) in 2008, I didn't initially realize the depth of this technology gap. This past week, I was able to see firsthand the difference technology can make in the lives of children. On April 13th, Microsoft Corp, Comcast and BGCP hosted a grand opening of Philadelphia's first Club Tech Center of Excellence at the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club. The children's faces were animated with excitement and joy at the sight of their new computer lab. This center combined with the Club Tech program will open many doors for these children.
"We are thrilled to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the launch of their Club Tech Center of Excellence right in our backyard in Philadelphia," said Charisse Lillie, Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and Executive Vice President of the Comcast Foundation. "The Center's leading edge technology will provide our local youth with access to the resources they need to build their digital literacy skills and put them on track to have a bright and successful future."
Through this Center of Excellence, Boys & Girls Club members will have access to the latest Microsoft technology, including Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, and cutting-edge hardware. The Club Tech program offers a curriculum that includes Microsoft software training and experience with Web design tenets, graphic design techniques, robotics, animation and digital film editing and digital music composition through the Digital Arts Suite.
The program is designed to create a long-term development plan for Club members. All resources and programs are also made available through www.myclubmylife.com, BGCA's website for teens. To learn more about BGCA's digital literacy program, visit www.bgca.org/clubtech.
"Technology is a priority area of our current comprehensive fundraising campaign, Be Great, Philadelphia! The donation of this state-of-the-art Technology Center not only helps us to reach our campaign goals, but offers our members an extraordinary experience to develop the skills they need to succeed in life and helps inspire them to reach their full potential to be great," said Jeffrey Waldron, President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. "Microsoft and Comcast have been great partners to our organization and we are truly appreciative of their support and generosity."
Local Boys & Girls Clubs also frequently serve as hosts for the Comcast Digital Connectors program and as partners in Comcast Cares Day, Comcast's annual nation-wide day of community service.
The more awareness we can all generate about the importance of providing technology and digital literacy training to our youth, the better chance all of our kids will have in life. For every 10 'likes' the Boys & Girls Clubs of America gets on Facebook between now and April 22, a Club Member receives Microsoft Office 2010. Visit facesofthefuture.org to learn more. Let's take luck out of the equation and make sure all of our children have access to technology!
Additional information about Comcast's partnership with BGCA and commitment to digital literacy is available at: