The new $890,000 Susie McMurry Technology Center at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming in north Casper will do more than offer more computers for more kids.

"It's main purpose is to inspire," board member Diane McGinley said Thursday before she and others board members, officers, and supporters went outside to throw a few shovels-full of dirt for the groundbreaking.

The 2,300-square-foot addition to the main building at 1701 E. K St., may inspire the next Elon Musk, the next machinist, nurse, engineer or the next person to open a new tech center years from now, McGinley said.

"Today, we build opportunities," she said.

Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Ashley Bright, said its current tech lab has 55 computers, and there's a waiting list.

"This is going to allow us to expand, more than double the space, double the program opportunities so that we can serve every child that has that interest, that passion, and wants to gain that knowledge in technology," Bright said. The lab will open in the spring.

It will be overseen by Pedro Mendez, who at age 5 was a Boys & Girls Club member in 1991, grew up with the north Casper club on H Street, and ran the tech center in his teens, Bright said. "The biggest draw in the Boys & Girls Club is Pedro from the neighborhood; and the kids love him."

Mendez will run the tech lab with 30 partners, he added.

Bright said the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, with an annual budget of $3.9 million, operates 10 sites in the area with 73 employees who serve 700 children a day.

Boys & Girls Club of Central Wyoming
Boys & Girls Club of Central Wyoming

Casper Mayor Charlie Powell, a psychologist, said programs like the computer lab at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming keep at-risk children out of his office, as well as the offices in the criminal justice system, mental health clinics, substance abuse treatment centers, and pregnancy clinics.

Sociologists, he said, have identified three basic traits among at-risk children:

  • A focus on immediate gratification, because the money they have now may not be there in the future, so they don't learn the importance of saving and planning.
  • What happens doesn't matter to them.
  • A lack of a sense of belonging.

Children brought up with these traits then raise their own children that way, which locks families in a cycle of poverty, Powell said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs, with a program like the new tech lab, can give youth an opportunity to see something beyond their at-risk condition and hopefully an "a-ha" moment that they can belong to something, that what happens does matter, and that they can make sacrifices for the future, he said.

In economic terms, $1 spent on a program such as this will save $7 to $10 later in the costs of treating addictions, institutionalization, divorce and other social consequences, Powell said.

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