The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis will be celebrating the grand opening of a new teen tech center on Thursday.
The center — which will reside at the Herbert Hoover Club in north St. Louis — will have a music studio, 3D printers, virtual-reality headsets and more for teens to use.
The goal for the center is to inspire young St. Louisans to pursue careers in STEM fields, according to Dr. Flint Fowler, the president of the local Boys & Girls Club of America chapter.
“There is huge opportunity in the STEM field for young people as they prepare for careers, particularly among girls and people of color,” Fowler said.
Best Buy is providing equipment for the tech center. The electronics retailer selected the local chapter’s main facility last spring as part of a plan to open 60 tech centers across North America by 2020.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis submitted an application last spring to host a teen tech center. Andrea Riehl, a Best Buy community relations manager, said representatives from her company visited its Herbert Hoover Club facility a few weeks later.
Riehl said Best Buy was impressed with the enthusiasm of the teens who frequented the Herbert Hoover Club building. But, she said, they saw room for improvement.
“These young people were so excited about being able to connect with adults in this space, being able to have a safe place to go after school. But what they didn’t have was a space where they could really express themselves creatively, using technology,” she said.
Best Buy announced in August that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis would be a part of the teen tech-center program.
Other organizations pitched in to help make the center a reality. The Clubhouse Network, representing 100 clubhouses around the world, trained staff to mentor students, Fowler said. PGA Reach funded staff positions at the center. The Professional Golfers' Association charity foundation, along with the Bellerive Country Club and Premium Retail Services, funded construction.
Children and teens who are Boys & Girls Club members will have regular access to the teen tech center, said Fowler. He said his organization is also contacting local schools to arrange trips to the facility.
“They may not be club members for a number of reasons,” he said, “but that should not limit their access and opportunity to STEM-related programming.”
The teen tech center will be open Monday to Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Its Friday hours will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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