How Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami will help youth gain critical digital skills

Communities / Article

Gale Nelson is president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. Today Knight Foundation is announcing support for the YOUmedia Miami Learning Lab at the organization’s new headquarters. 

Christian Javier Grajeda wants to become a criminal investigator when he grows up, but like countless other Miami-Dade County youths from low-income families, the sixth-grader does not have internet access at home.

Knight Foundation’s partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami will help meet this need. The YOUmedia Miami Learning Lab at our new headquarters, the Carnival Center for Excellence, will offer children the tools they need for exploration and innovation and also help them acquire some of the critical skills they need to achieve success in the 21st century workplace.

Kinloch Middle School student Dayana Granadas explores an online video program at the YOUmedia Learning Lab housed at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami’s new headquarters, the Carnival Center for Excellence. Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.

Imagine the coolest tech space possible. That’s YOUmedia Miami with all the bells and whistles for our post-millennials. The lab is designed as a creative learning environment that empowers and encourages youths to author their own narratives through technology – mixing MP3s, code and GIFs to tell their stories.  

And, for some of our youth, it will be a safe haven after school to eat a snack, do online homework assignments and meet new friends.

Christian is already quite familiar with YOUmedia, as he currently uses YOUmedia’s computers with the help of Andy Derilus, the on-site lead creative coach, to do his digital homework at Kinloch Park Middle School. The lab is open throughout the week in the afternoons and every first and third Saturday. Christian plans to sign up for coding, digital and photography workshops scheduled to be offered in early December to help give him an edge on pursuing his passion to work in the justice system.

From left to right, Kinloch Middle School students Idel Remon and Arian Olbera test out Garage Band on a computer at the YOUmedia Learning Lab. The lab is part of a $250,000 investment from Knight Foundation to foster talent and opportunity in Miami and promote diversity in tech. Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.

Daniel Antonie Panez, also a student at Kinloch Park, plans to be an artist. He is excited about using the technology and looks forward to future creative workshops that will include code design, video production, and music and photography creation.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to know children like Christian and Darius and to help transform the lives of at-risk children through our quality mentoring program. A donor- and volunteer-supported nonprofit organization, we match aspiring kids with caring, trained adult volunteers who mentor them on a path to success in their lives in the classroom and beyond. Through consistent guidance, 99.5 percent of our kids graduate from high school and 95 percent go on to college. Thanks to the support of organizations like Knight Foundation, we hope to further expand our mission and make an even greater impact on our youth.

Indeed, Knight Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami know the importance of building a bridge across the digital divide for our community’s children. Together, we will ensure our youth are plugged into the resources that will help them thrive personally, professionally and as future citizens and leaders of Miami.

Gale Nelson may be reached at [email protected]. Follow Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami on Twitter @BBBSMiami

Students from Kinloch Middle School play video games in the YOUmedia Learning Lab located at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami Carnival Center for Excellence. Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.