Editor’s note: This story is part of an occasional Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service series that highlights groups and people worth knowing in Milwaukee. To nominate a person or a group, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Spotlight" in the subject line.
There’s a new place for teens who love technology in Milwaukee.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee recently opened its doors to a Teen Tech Center at the Mary Ryan Club, 3000 N. Sherman Blvd., and youths are starting to take advantage of the space and its state-of-the-art resources.
"It’s kind of where technology meets expression," said Donte’ Daughtry, who serves as program manager. "We want to give them the setting to be as creative as they can."
Daughtry, who grew up going to the Mary Ryan Club since he was 6, said the tech center is a great addition to the other resources the Boys & Girls Clubs already provides Milwaukee youths.
A year ago, the Sherman Park club received a grant from Best Buy and The Clubhouse Network. Since 2012, Best Buy has partnered with the worldwide Clubhouse Network to create tech centers to youths in underserved communities and to help to address the nation’s opportunity gap.
The Sherman Park location is the first center in Wisconsin.
The center’s room features 13 computers, four iMacs, a green screen, a wireless printer, a recording studio with a window to let students watch their peers and other resources to ensure students have access to a variety of technological platforms.
On a recent afternoon, 17-year-old Marcus Robinson sat at one computer as other students worked on their homework or experimented with various computer programs.
"I like hanging out with other teens here," said Robinson, who has been going to the Mary Ryan Club for years. "This is keeping me from going home and being bored."
Kathy Thornton-Bias, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, said bringing experiential learning to youths in Sherman Park is a "great example" of the impact of her organization.
"We have a chance to change children’s lives every single day," Thornton-Bias said.
She said although there are distractions competing for a kid’s attention in today’s digital world, the tech room’s state-of-the-art equipment and community space fosters productive creativity.
Daughtry said the youths he works with are more eager to create content in the collaborative atmosphere than consume media at home.
"You’re able to allow them to be themselves within something," Daughtry said, "which I think is the beauty of all this."