By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Computers used to be scarce at the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Its digital arsenal for students was limited to three old computers in the homework help room, only two of which had Internet access.
That will change today at 4 p.m., when the club opens a new technology center that will be funded with $30,000 in grants.
"This is going to be a great leap forward as far as access for the kids," said Tim Brurud, the club's technology center director.
The center will eventually include about 20 computers attached to a wireless network, three digital cameras and an LCD projector. It will be used for basic computer and Internet instruction and schoolwork, as well as for a digital art program that will enable students to manipulate photos and make digital movies, music and graphic arts, Brurud said.
While that might sound like a digital playground, Brurud said it will be play of a serious sort.
"The focus is not recreation," he said. "It's all going to be education. We really don't have time for people to be going in there and messing around."
"They're not going to be playing solitaire, I can assure you of that," said Robin Morris, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line.
Morris said the center will make computers available for many students in the area who now don't have access to them.
"A lot of families in Havre simply don't have computers that are accessible for kids," Morris said. "Especially with the No Child Left Behind movement in this country, we need to help them as much as we can at a younger age."
The center is being paid for in part with a $25,000 grant from the Beaumont Foundation of America, a nonprofit corporation that provides grants for computer equipment to underserved populations nationwide. In August the Hi-Line club was one of 3,000 groups approved for the grant. The money will be released in May, Brurud said, and the club will provide in-kind matches like furniture.
Once that money comes in, the club will purchase 10 Toshiba laptop computers and hold a grand opening. Until then, the center is up and running with eight donated desktop computers.
In September the Havre Elementary Parent Teacher Organization voted to donate $5,000 to the new facility.
"One of the reasons we did it is it really ties in well with the elementary school in the fact that it helps them become more confident and comfortable with modern technology," said Havre Elementary PTO president Brenda Evans.
The club will also run evening programs in the center that will be open to adults.
"It's pretty much going to be a whole community thing," Brurud said, adding that one of the stated goals of the Boys & Girls Club and the Beaumont Foundation is to help narrow the digital divide. "We feel it should extend to the community and parents," he said.
Brurud said he plans to make the center available to children in each of the club's five program areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness and recreation.
Once the center is running in full swing with five half-hour classes a day, Brurud said, he wants to see 100 kids a day using the center. The club has an average daily attendance of 110 to 120.
Volunteers from Montana State University-Northern may help students in the new center, he said.