The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry consists of five clubs in Beaufort and Jasper counties, including locations in Beaufort and Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. The clubs are open to children ages 6-18.
Details: Beaufort, 843-986-5437; Bluffton, 843-757-2845; Hilton Head, 843-689-3646
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It's been said that children are the future. With new technology becoming increasingly important in our daily lives, today's children need a firm grasp on how to use it all.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry are making sure their members are prepared.
The Hilton Head club was recently honored for its implementation of technology programs. The national Boys & Girls Clubs of America recognized the club with the Excellence in Technology Program Award, which is sponsored by Microsoft. The award, along with $2,500, was given to only one of the nation's 4,000 or so Boys & Girls Clubs.
"It's exciting," Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island technology coordinator Abi Fidler said. "Hilton Head isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of technology. You think of Silicon Valley, California, Seattle. ... It's been wonderful to say we're doing amazing things in our own backyard."
Fidler said her club was chosen because of the various technology-based programs it offers members. Those programs include clay animation, robotics, video game programming, movie making, media literacy and crime scene investigation classes. She said all club members get to visit the club's technology lab for at least an hour a week. And she said the kids just want to do more and more with technology.
Madeline Prince, 12, has participated in several of the club's technology programs, including robotics, clay animation, movie making and fashion technology.
"I really enjoy using the technology, but I'd say my favorite part about it is being creative and making your own ideas," Madeline said, adding that it's nice to learn about technology and have fun at the same time.
While the Hilton Head club is learning how to create movies and program video games, the Bluffton club is using technology to get kids interested in reading. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, the club was able to transform its old library into a more appealing place to read and study.
Bluffton unit director Molly Smith said children ages 11 and older are not reading at the levels they should be reading. She also said studies have shown that children that age like to read in a reclining position. In an effort to encourage them to read more, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America kicked off The Bright Spot for Reading Initiative for Adolescent Readers. The organization partnered with Walmart to put these reading centers in various clubs around the country.
"I really wanted to create something that made the children want to read," Smith said. "The kids are begging to get in there."
With the grant money, the Bluffton club was able to buy sofas, chaise lounges, big pillows and bean bags for the children. It also allowed them to purchase more high-tech equipment to encourage reading. The club bought four Kindle electronic readers for the room and hopes to buy Nook reading devices as well. Assistant unit director Verta Thompson said the club is also thinking about purchasing Promethean interactive whiteboards and video phones for the reading center.
Smith said the Boys & Girls Clubs of America wants to eventually add the reading centers to all of its clubs. But to start, the organization chose 100 clubs for the program.
"Everything that they touch is very techy," Smith said. "The electronics, the games. That has their attention. ... Instead of opening up a book and turning the page, they want to get on a Kindle because that's how they've been raised. ... We're learning about the different types of technology. And I want it all. I want whatever it is that is going to get their attention and hold it and help them to become the great people that they're supposed to be."
The Hilton Head and Bluffton clubs aren't the only ones going high-tech. The other three clubs that are part of The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry have plans to implement the technology programs Fidler runs at the Hilton Head club. Fidler rotates her time at all five area clubs.
The Beaufort club also has plans for a recording studio in its new teen center. When the sound equipment is installed, club members such as Beaufort High School student Carlton Johnson, 15, will be able to record their favorite type of music.
"This is a good place to go," he said. "There's not much to do in Beaufort, so this adds something."
Beaufort Gazette reporter Rachel Heaton contributed to this report.