Gratitude was in the air at Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana Best Buy Teen Tech Center Ribbon Cutting on Thursday, August 11. People from all across the country gathered at Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana to celebrate the installation of a brand new Best Buy Teen Tech Center, as well as Gary Club’s continued success in its mission to help kids thrive in life.
“What we’re doing here today is celebrating a milestone, an investment, a partnership, and an opportunity for kids. We’re giving them the ability to dream and find their passions through the investments of Best Buy and this new Teen Tech Center and all of our generous partners. We’re creating hope and opportunity for all kids in Gary and the surrounding area,” said Ryan Smiley, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana.
Gary Club’s new Best Buy Teen Tech Center is the 50th one to be opened in the United States. Best Buy hopes to have 100 Teen Tech Centers opened across the country by the end of 2025, so it’s special that the halfway point of this goal is in Gary, helping the children of Northwest Indiana.
Gary Club and its partners took a section of the building that was in desperate need of renovation and completely transformed it into the new Best Buy Teen Tech Center.
“Going from seeing this room being pea and lime green to seeing it all framed now with the light in it–it’s been pure joy,” said Wendell Mosby, Teen Tech Center Director.
The tech center has only been open for a short time this summer, but the kids are already loving it and taking full advantage of everything it has to offer. The tech center has an array of equipment from desktop computers, to a full set of DJ equipment, microphones, and sound equipment, to even a sewing machine. The list is incredible, and each piece of equipment is designed to help kids discover their passions.
“We want them to find the things that they love to do and not get stuck being an adult and not enjoying their job. We want to introduce them to things early on so they can make informed decisions about what it is they love to do," said Mosby.
The tech center isn’t just a great way to help kids learn more about their passions, though. The tech center is just one more opportunity that Gary Club offers to give kids outlets for the stress in their lives. Opportunities like the Best Buy Tech Center will continue to support children who are suffering from mental health.
“We’re making sure that our kids recover from the learning loss of COVID. Social and emotional well-being is a huge initiative for us right now. Teens and mental health is a real problem and we’re in a unique position to be able to address that positively by adapting, growing, changing, and offering opportunities for them that they really can’t get anywhere else,” said Smiley.
Damien Harmon, EVP of Omnichannel Operations, has been a big part of establishing the Best Buy Teen Tech Centers. He came to Gary Club for the ribbon cutting because he used to be a member of Gary Club when he was a young kid living in Gary, and he wanted to make sure he was here to invest in and celebrate such an amazing opportunity.
“It’s my community. If I’m not willing to go back and invest and be able to say I care, then who else will do it,” said Harmon.
Coming back to Gary was a deeply personal experience for Harmon. Three of his siblings passed away in Gary, so coming back stirred up those feelings of loss. However, Harmon explained that coming back to Gary was both happy and sad because even though he was thinking of his lost siblings, he was grateful to be investing in the community he grew up in. Harmon strives to show the children of Gary that they are capable of anything.
“I want them to see that you can be from Gary and be successful without having to be an artist or in sports. You can just be. You can be in business, you can be in music, you can be in design. Whatever it may be. I just want them to see somebody who’s been successful, who has the opportunity, and get them to dream big,” said Harmon.
Overall, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana's Best Buy Teen Tech Center Ribbon Cutting celebrated more than just a new tech center and a successful partnership. The true celebration was the celebration of many communities coming together to advance children’s lives.
To learn more about Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana and its mission to set children on the path to success, visit https://www.bgcgreaternwi.org/gary/.