Tucked inside the 48 blocks that make up Atlantic City in New Jersey, a small group of determined educators is hard at work. They’re reimagining traditional after-school programs so the students in this community have the tools they need to build their dreams.
This transformation is taking place at a set of new technology labs created by the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City as part of their 21st Century Academic Enrichment Program. The labs, which focus on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, and math — as well as design and career training, are equipped with iPad and Mac computers provided by Apple. Leading this new initiative are third-generation Atlantic City residents Stephanie Koch and Mia Williams.
“Atlantic City has been focused on hospitality for so long so we’ve kind of forced ourselves into thinking about just one career pathway,” says Koch, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City. “By refocusing on STEAM, we’re arming children with critical thinking, creative expression, and problem solving skills that can be used in the future. We want this to serve as the scaffolding for them to climb to a better tomorrow.”
“I’m so proud to be a part of this program,” says Williams, who is in charge of running both the STEAM Lab for children up to age 12 and the Design Lab for those aged 13-18. “It makes me emotional because I watched my grandparents effect change through their work in education here, and they inspired me to want to continue that work to make sure kids here are set up for their future.”