The positive energy seemed to electrify the air at Tuesday night’s open house for the new Boys & Girls Club of Warwick at the former Lloyd Cooper Army Reserve Headquarters building on Sandy Lane.
What was once an empty shell with a degrading exterior and interior had been transformed into a warm, brightly-colored beacon of optimism for future generations – a true testament to good people working hard on lofty goals for the right reasons.
Even the name of the facility – The Club at Cooper – showed that good will on the part of its benefactors, retaining the homage paid to Silver Star recipient and former Warwick resident Private Lloyd Cooper III, who died in action during the Italian Campaign of World War II.
In terms of tangible features, what can one even say about the wonderful opportunities now available to Warwick’s teens?
The music studio would be the envy of any garage band, with real instruments and real people who can teach how to play them. The recording software is the very same used by many in the profession, and kids can learn hands-on how to operate it. Hopeful singers can belt out their voices freely in the soundproof studio, while a professional-quality microphone brings out the best in their vocal range.
Young artists will have a space all their own to create prints, paint and draw, both with physical materials and on computers. Aspiring digital editors will have access to editing programs and tools for audio, video and photos, and eager engineers can get experience in design software and watch their creations come to life through a 3D printer.
These are the new tools required to gain entry into a huge number of high-paying, in-demand jobs of modern society, and the new Boys & Girls Club is giving pre-teens and teenagers a huge jump start by offering these resources outside of the limited scope of what our public schools are able to provide.
At the same time, the club doesn’t fail to realize that kids will only show up to a place and take advantage of its educational resources if it is a fun place to be. The smiles on the faces of kids, teens and even fuddy-duddy grownups who put on virtual reality goggles for the first time, played with Promethean Boards or took pictures in front of green screens to turn into funny pictures was evidence that fun will not be hard to find at the new club.
The new Boys & Girls Club will cater directly to the middle school kids – a crucial age where kids are beginning to come into their own understanding of how the world works, what their opportunities are and what they want to become. This is such an important, formative age, and the experiences that happen while in middle school can have a huge negative or positive effect on the trajectory of a kid’s entire life.
Having a resource like this new Boys & Girls Club will, without question, have the potential to completely flip a preteen or teenager’s life trajectory from a negative one to a positive one. Somebody will discover a once unknown love for music, or painting, or meditation, or computer-aided designing, or cooking, or just shooting a basketball around with a couple newfound friends.
For parents, the new club is the best, most affordable babysitter you’ll ever find – one that you know isn’t going to sneak in their significant other and eat things out of your refrigerator either. Not only will your child be in the hands of capable, benevolent adults, they will be given the opportunity to better themselves and interact with enthusiastic mentors who can make a huge difference for their attitudes and sense of self-worth.
In today’s world, more than ever, we need joyous experiences which inspire friendliness, teamwork and hope – like the one that was felt by all in attendance on Tuesday night in Warwick.