Programming a promising future

YOUNGSTOWN -- LaKendra Evans knows that computer skills will play a big part in her plans of someday working as an electrical engineer.
That's why the 16-year-old Chaney High School junior devoted part of her Saturday afternoon to a computer lab at Youngstown State University.
Evans was designing her own Web page, featuring her boyfriend next to a photo of herself in her dance line uniform.
She's one of 14 students from the Boys & amp; Girls Club of Youngstown and the Youngstown City Schools VISION program who are learning Web page design techniques from the staff of YSU's Media & amp; Academic Computing Department.
The goal is to expose inner-city children to science and technology and teach them marketable skills, said Dawud W. Abdullah, coordinator of VISION (Volunteers in Service in our Neighborhood).
The program helps teach important skills to students who may not benefit from the affluence of surrounding communities, said Richard Allen, executive director of the Boys & amp; Girls Club.
"The Boys & amp; Girls Club serves a population that's right in the middle of the digital divide," said Allen. "We just think it's really important to get our kids involved in technology young. If not, they're going to get left behind."
Started last month: The program began last month and teams up the students with volunteer YSU staff members Maureen Wilson, Renee Vivacqua, Sal Sanders and Robert Tupaj. They teach Web design, digital imaging and Web site development.
The program is important because it pulls students onto campus, where they see computers in a positive atmosphere, and sometimes work alongside graduate students who are learning the same skills, said Sanders, an instructional technologist and interim director of YSU's Media & amp; Academic Computing Department.
Jeremy Sharper, 16, a junior at Chaney, said the program will help him learn skills he can use in college, where he plans to study computer engineering.
Jerome Higgs, 16, a Rayen High School junior, said he had no knowledge of Web design until he started attending the program and said he likes visiting the YSU campus and interacting with new people.
On Saturday, he polished his Web site, featuring pictures of Jennifer Lopez and a $100 bill.
Putting skills to use: Besides learning their own skills, students will design a page for the Boys & amp; Girls Club, where they will sell T-shirts and have other fund-raisers, Abdullah said. They also have committed to creating a page for Ronald McDonald House for a donation. Funds from both projects will be earmarked for technology development at the club.
Abdullah said the volunteer program is an extension of a project that will be bringing a computer lab to the Boys & amp; Girls Club. That project is funded through a grant from the Powers Up Foundation.
Club members will take their new skills there, Abdullah said, and pass on what they've learned to other members of the club, including younger pupils.

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