A Taste of Campus Life for At-Risk Youth in Oregon

Community support launches innovative program at Boys & Girls Club.

By on August 2, 2012

Austin Covell watches grade school children use new computers and video cameras with a combination of pride and envy.

He is at the new Verizon Connect Center in Salem, Oregon; a place where dozens of young students learn what it takes to research, write, shoot video, edit and produce a half-hour TV news program for the Web.

Austin is a Verizon employee and volunteers at the center. He says he can relate to the students, and is thrilled to see the impact the center is having on the children.

The Verizon Foundation has awarded nearly $50,000 in grants to make the Connect Center a reality. The Foundation partnered with the Salem Boys & Girls Club, Chemeketa Community College, the local food bank and YMCA to create a special after-school experience with food, technology, teaching expertise and counseling. Verizon Connect Center not only keeps kids engaged after school, it is sparking a flame of discovery for many at-risk youth in Northeast Salem.

A few months after the doors opened, Verizon Connect Center students have blossomed, learning to edit photos and design web pages, according to Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Tim Sinatra.

“The results are fantastic! Verizon allowed all of us to connect,” Sinatra said, adding that many of the students had not yet dreamed of higher education, yet now find themselves being tutored and mentored by college students.

The connections occur each afternoon on the local community college campus. Programs at the center focus on communication career fields, such as journalism, broadcasting, internet safety and digital media.