Breaking News
More () »

Combating the Digital Divide at Boys & Girls Clubs new learning centers

ClubSmart Learning Centers could serve upwards of 1,000 students a day

Amid a horrifying health crisis, there have been devastating reverberations across many communities here in Northeast Ohio.

"I lost a few kids as far as gang violence, street violence and I think a lot of that comes from kids not having somewhere to go," said Richard Starr, Director at the King Kennedy Boys & Girls Club.

As students around Northeast Ohio prepare for a virtual start to their school year, many are facing unprecedented road-blocks.

"In the United States, six percent of folks don't have regular access to broadband, and if you look across Northeast Ohio, that number is twenty three....you'll see certain neighborhoods where it's 70 [percent]," explained Jeff Scott, President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio.

"Certain of our kids have said that really the only way they get access to the internet is through a parent's smartphone."

Starr says, this puts certain kids at a major disadvantage.

"How can a kid compete or be successful in school if they're using their cell phone to complete their school work?" he questioned.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio sees a crisis shaping up - caused by this digital divide, and, underscored by real safety concerns.

"In certain of our neighborhoods, it might not be a good idea for a kid to walk around with that gear and [so] having a safe place to operate from, to do digital learning is part of the digital divide," said Scott.

So - the organization is now taking on what could be an impossible task. Pivoting their model to open new ClubSmart Learning Centers in club locations across the region.

"We really think this gives our kids a sense of community, access to adult proctors for help access to digital tools and digital access that they need, as well as meals throughout the day. And lastly, we think it really helps ease the mental stress on our kids and gives them creative outlets through other traditional Boys and Girls Clubs programming," Scott told 3News.

Nine centers have been open since June, and with safety a top priority, they plan on opening at least two more for the new school year.

"We want to socially distance ourselves, we're going to make sure we have a doctor on standby, we're going to do temperature checks." explained Starr of the safety measures at each center.

The ClubSmart centers could serve as many as one thousand students per day, but Scott says, they can't do it alone.

"We need computers, we need desks chairs, hot spots, other gear like power strips and carts...just so that we can outfit these buildings."

The Club is one of the beneficiaries of today's Cleveland Indians Charities Giveathon, airing on WKYC. Leaders have high hopes they can raise enough money to help even more students.

"We can outfit our sites to be more digitally ready [when] schools are back open," said Scott.

"Having kids be digitally savvy is the future workforce readiness program."

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out