Atlantic City, N.J. (March 18, 2022) – The Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City (BGCAC) believes in its next generation and is preparing the community’s ten thousand youth for the area’s industry diversification, it believes is on the horizon. Recognizing the modern economy and our virtual world, along with the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, the Club is placing bets on the growing technology arena, building a work ready pipeline of individuals from Atlantic City to become engineers, IT contractors, software developers and more. BGCAC did not go dormant during the pandemic. Not only staying open as a safe space for virtual school while Atlantic City’s School District remained closed, it also opened the City’s first STEAM Lab at its Chelsea location (one of three Club Sites in Atlantic City). “The partnership between the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City and Apple highlights the type of forward-thinking investments imperative for our children’s future success,” said Governor Murphy. “It is critical that we prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary to fuel our innovation economy. All industries looking to develop pipelines of talent can look to New Jersey as we continue to foster the growth of our nation’s future leaders.”
The launch of a STEAM Lab was made possible by philanthropic families, Gormley’s (Senator Bill Gormley) and Levine’s; both provided seed funding to launch the operation, while also connecting CEO, Stephanie Koch, to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Koch was determined to pilot an employer engaged continuum of education, helping youth to develop a fluency for coding, as well as become exposed to careers in robotics, graphic design and more. She hired Mia Williams, a ten-year veteran of Atlantic City’s School District and a certified Apple Consultant, previously serving as the Master Trainer for the Apple retail store located at Caesar’s, The Pier. Together, the dynamic duo courted Apple into a partnership like no other in the country. Apple provided technical assistance and capacity development training to the Club, while also supplying devices such as iMacs, Sphero Robots and iPads for youth to utilize on a daily basis. The STEAM Lab opened in October 2020, hosting children safely during the COVID pandemic, allowing them to have hands on learning experiences that had never been provided to them before. The outcomes were astounding. A six-month learning curriculum was completed by youth ages 8-12 in three months. Koch and Williams recognized mental wellness gains in terms of confidence and critical thinking, during a dire time in the world when all were forced into isolation. Local families began to seek new academic opportunities, such as applying to vocational schools focused on engineering careers like Atlantic County Institute of Technology. In addition, Koch and Williams expanded the STEAM curriculum to teens at the Club’s Teen Center, opening a Design Lab with Apple devices where youth designed logos and learned the fundamentals of graphic design and marketing, using Adobe platforms. In August 2021, Senator Gormley welcomed Lisa Jackson to see, first-hand, the deep impact this partnership was brewing, on the ground in Atlantic City. Koch and Williams proposed further expansion of the STEAM Lab to another part of Atlantic City, growing it into a citywide Strategy. Noting the success and impact they were finding with youth, this would help the BGCAC reach more children, daily, with STEAM education. Apple endorsed their proposal and the Club is now opening a second STEAM Lab at its Drexel Avenue location, as well as launching a Pre-Apprenticeship Program within its Teen Center, helping youth to become Apple Certified Pros in all Apple applications, along with maintaining and updating their unique hardware systems. The Club will honor the Gormley and Levine Families on March 18, dedicating the citywide STEAM Strategy in their honor, highlighting their continued investment, and thought leadership. The ceremony is invitation only; press coverage should be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City STEAM Program, please visit acbgc.org/steamlab.