Caribbean Lottery funds rebuilding Youth Council Assoc. computer lab | THE DAILY HERALD

ST. PETERS–The opening of a new computer lab at Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre in St. Peters on July 24 held special significance for the St. Maarten Youth Council Association (SMYCA).

The opening was postponed last year after the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 7. While the Youth Community Centre itself remained operational after Hurricane Irma, the computer lab was damaged. The window blew in. The roof was intact, but all the fixtures and furnishings were damaged by the wind and rain.

The new computer lab was made possible through a donation by the Caribbean Lottery and its parent company International Game Technology (IGT), it was stated in a press release on Thursday.

The new lab will make “a great difference” to students at the centre. Caribbean Lottery funded the rebuilding of the computer workstations and chairs, for which the Centre is “very grateful.” Thankfully, the 11 computers and two printers were not yet installed when the hurricane struck.

“We have been looking forward to this day for so long,” said SMYCA Director Connie Francis-Gumbs.

IGT’s After School Advantage Programme is a corporate philanthropic initiative designed to address the needs of children during the critical after-school hours. The programme strives to close the “digital divide” for at-risk children who are left behind because they do not have the means to access computers at home in today’s increasingly digital society.

UNESCO Secretary-General in St. Maarten Marcellia Henry was keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. She praised SMYCA as “the epitome of a resilient organisation that is known for nurturing a growth mindset in the youth in St. Maarten.”

“Today’s generous donation by Caribbean Lottery will enable other programmes such as KIDS IT to provide the youth participants with computer, viewing, digital and technological skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century,” Henry said.

SMYCA’s Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre is home to the organisation’s successful STAR After School Programme, which provides academic support, life-skills training and extracurricular activities for elementary and high school students.

Now, thanks to Caribbean Lottery’s donation, SMYCA’s KIDS IT programme is set for a re-launch. The programme was put on hold four years ago. The weekend programme reached out to a wider group of students, allowing them to learn, share and explore their information technology skills outside the regular after-school homework-based programme. “We are so glad that we are now able to take the KIDS IT programme off ‘pause,’” Francis-Gumbs said.

She explained that there is a push in St. Maarten to increase the level of technology in elementary schools. However, many of the children the organisation serves face challenges – especially the younger ones.

“Some of the children lost everything in the storm. Most of the students we serve who are at the elementary level do not have access to Internet at home. Their parents are busy and working. They are not able to go to the library to study on their own. They are at more of a disadvantage than the older ones. So, the use of the computers will really help this age group,” she said.

The centre hosts an average of 45 elementary pupils per year in its current after-school programme, in addition to a smaller group of high school students.

Since Hurricane Irma, the centre has demonstrated its resilience by keeping to its regular schedule. The younger pupils start at around 1:00pm, as school ends earlier for them. They have lunch, do their homework and then they go on to their tutored and extra-curricular activities. Tutoring is provided in English, Dutch and math for all grade levels. SMYCA recognises that teaching IT skills – an important tool for life – is a critical element of any after-school programme, at both elementary and high school levels.

Francis-Gumbs pointed out that not all students are academically gifted and their self-esteem declines as a result. However, the aim of the IGT After School Advantage programme, which SMYCA fully supports, is to help all the region’s young people succeed to the best of their abilities.

“We at Caribbean Lottery are interested in empowering children who might otherwise feel they are being left behind,” said IGT Regional Director for the Caribbean Brendan Hames. “Whatever their talents and ability, we believe that providing a programme such as this will enable them to work on their strengths and that this will lead to a fulfilling life in the future.”

   “Even after a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, the SMYCA still has not lost its bounce or step,” Henry said. “In other words, it continues to uphold and execute the core value and objective of the organisation, which is to promote the interests of the youth of St. Maarten.”

Source: The Daily Herald