(pictured above: From left: Damari Martin, Tiffany Garcia-Petatan, Gabriela Loyd try out the new computers.)
Youngsters at the Salvation Army International Corps Boys & Girls Club now have state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips, thanks to a collaborative effort led by two organizations with local ties.
Officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the facility on Jan. 21 to celebrate the opening of the Project Phoenix Learning Center at the International Corps, which serves more than 70 youth through its after school programs daily. Supported by donations from the CP3 Foundation and the Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation, the new learning center, which is home to 16 new desktop computers,affords Boys & Girls Club youth access to a wide berth of technology. Major James Allison, Area Commander of the Salvation Army, described the ribbon cutting – which marked the opening of the second Phoenix Center at a local Boys & Girls Club – as “the culmination of a miracle.”
During a fundraising banquet for the local Area Command in August, city native and NBA superstar Chris Paul surprised agency officials with a $25,000 check from the CP3 Foundation. Cheryl Caldwell, the wife of NFL and former Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell, immediately followed suit, awarding a matching $25,000 donation to the Salvation Army from the Caldwell Foundation for the creation of the center at the International Corps location on New Walkertown Road. Allison said it was a “priceless gift.”
“Within seconds, the Salvation Army had $50,000 towards a Phoenix Learning Center here at the Boys & Girls Club,” Allison recalled.
North Carolina’s first Phoenix Learning Center opened at the Salvation Army’s Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club on Reynolds Park Blvd. in the fall, and students at the International Center have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of their own Phoenix Center ever since, said Executive Director Sylvia Adams. Many of the children at the Carlson Center are now using the Phoenix Center to access information that they formerly had to go to the library to obtain, and their confidence in their technological abilities has greatly increased, she reported.
Tuesday’s ceremony drew an enthusiastic audience of students, staff and community stakeholders to the International Corps location, which was outfitted with a Promethean ActivBoard and accessories, a network printer and internet accessibility in addition to the new computers. Patrice and James Bethune said they attended at the urging of their 10-year-old son Elijah, a fifth grader at Ibraham Elementary. The couple’s younger son, Christian, 7, also attends the center.
“We wanted to take part because Elijah was so overwhelmed about Chris Paul,” Mrs. Bethune explained. “He loves Chris Paul and he was so excited about the new Promethean board and the new computers, so we took the day off to support our kids.”
The Phoenix Centers act as a supplementary model, helping to reinforce the lessons that students are learning in the classroom, using innovative tools and specialized interactive instructional software, explained Jarrod Grant, president and co-founder of the Atlanta, Ga.-based Learning, Technology & Leadership LLC, which specializes in technology integration strategies in resources, professional development and e-learning.
Although both their boys are adept at navigating technology – from tablets to laptops to Nintendo DS’s – the Bethunes said they believe the Phoenix Center will enhance their sons’ educational experience.
“I think it’s going to help them grow educationally,” said Mrs. Bethune, a social worker for the Forsyth County Department of Social Services. “I think it’s going to help their grades. I think it’s just going to be a great learning experience.”
The new center is the fifth Phoenix Learning Center in the nation opened by The Caldwells, who still live in Forsyth County in the NFL off-season. They opened the first center in Indianapolis, Ind. in 2010. Mrs. Caldwell said they chose the phoenix as a moniker because it is a symbol of overcoming obstacles, not unlike the “trials and tribulations” that she says many students face “while striving to become scholars.” Through the Centers, which target underserved populations, the Caldwells hope to help level the educational playing field by helping the students familiarize themselves with technology.
“It gives these kids an opportunity to work with 21st Century technology, and that is so important these days,” explained Mrs. Caldwell, whose husband was recently named the new head coach of the Detroit Lions. “…I have no doubt that they’re going to enjoy it.”
Robin Paul, the mother of Chris Paul, said she and her husband Charles Paul were thrilled to be able to support an effort that serves children in East Winston, where they grew up.
“My husband was raised about five minutes up the road. My dad owned that service center up on the corner there … so we were really excited about it,” she said of opening the center. “To walk in here today and see this, it is awesome.”