Mount Vernon The Computer Clubhouse at Gum Springs Community Center offers about 150 underserved children in the Mount Vernon area the chance to learn cutting-edge software and computer skills, filmmaking, blogging, Podcasts and robotics.
During the summer, children in Kindergarten through high school can record their own music on CDs, learn digital photography, and write on a blog, which has 400-plus entries including short stories, poetry, photos, videos and book reviews.
The club also takes local field trips to the Torpedo Factory and the Air and Space Museum, and week-long trips where 14 youths went to the NASA Space Camp at Wallops Island, Va. The funding was provided by Equal Footing Foundation.
“It’s a place to help children find their passions through the use of technology,” said Jyll Turner, 43, of Alexandria, who runs the Intel Computer Clubhouse at Gum Springs.
“They’re excited about learning and developing skills in areas that they’re passionate about,” said Turner, who keeps track of developing software trends the youngsters might enjoy.
The Kindergarteners start with Tux Type software and learn how to type. Older kids can learn to use Adobe PhotoShop, Publisher, Microsoft Suite and PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere for editing digital videos, and Sculptris.
Turner says the skills are transferable in later life — like reading gleaned from the Book Club, or public speaking gleaned from the Poetry Club, or Prezi (online PowerPoint) for making presentations.
The club has a professional recording studio with an electronic keyboard, drum machine, mixing board and microphones so youths can do their own Podcasts, record original Hip-Hop music, and create ring tones for their cell phones.
Other workshops offered are Responsible Media Club and Broadcast Journalism. The Poetry Club takes field trips to Busboys & Poets in the District, where the younths do live poetry performances.
The youths shot pictures in a nearby graveyard in Gum Springs, the oldest African-American community in Fairfax County, and displayed them in the lobby.
After reading her book, “Good Fortune,” the members of the Book Club got to Skype with its author Noni Carter and ask questions. On Monday, they sculpted volcanoes made out of homemade Play-Doh and created digital sculptures on the computer using Sculptris Software.
“We’re trying to help them reach their passions and put them on equal footing with everyone else,” said Turner, a self-taught software guru. “This place is a place where it’s a safe environment to discover who you are and what you want to be.”
The 20-year-old Intel Computer Clubhouse Network has a partnership with Neighborhood and Community Services, and Gum Springs is one of 105 sites in the U.S. and in 20 worldwide serving underserved areas where kids don’t have access to technology. Fairfax County has six clubs funded by grants from Intel.
After they made their digital films using Adobe Youth Voice, they invited the community to watch them at a Short Film Showcase. The youths did their own filming, editing, story boards — even their own acting.
Matavin Williams, 15, of Spring Gardens, has been attending the Computer Clubhouse for almost 10 years. The West Potomac High sophomore created two films called “Gossip” and “Depression” that he posted on the Computer Clubhouse Blog.
“I just learn new things about myself that I didn’t know before,” said Williams who wants to pursue journalism. “When Ms. Jyll had us do poetry, I discovered that I wanted to be a writer.”
Richard Lamptey, 15, is a sophomore at West Potomac High who lives in Gum Springs.
“I have worked on Mindstorm Robotics,” he said. “We made this animation of a car that moved back and forth.” He also takes advantage of the clubhouse’s Microsoft Word to do his homework.
Taiyon Jackson, 9, is a third-grader at Stratford Landing Elementary who enjoys playing online games at Miniclip.com, making faces on Sculptris, and playing computer car games. “I made this eye goggle thing for a secret agent,” he said. “And Ms. Jyll is nice.”
The Computer Clubhouse has a sliding-scale fee for parents based on salaries. It is located at Gum Springs Community Center, 8100 Fordson Road. It meets Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer; and 2:30 to 7 p.m. during school days. Call Turner at 703-360-3014 or email Julia.Turner@FairfaxCounty.gov or visit the website at www.computerclubhouse.org.