LIKE MANY of the rooms at the Manchester Boys & Girls Club, the Teen Tech Lab can get a little noisy.

About a dozen kids — all girls — played games and worked on writing projects Wednesday, hardly looking away from the giant video screens while adults hovered around the new space to celebrate a ribbon cutting for the lab, which opened last month.

CEO Diane Fitzpatrick got some help from 11-year-old club member Yarelis Galvan to promote the $14,500 donation from the AT&T Foundation, which paid for white boards, printers, hard drives, sound equipment, furniture and staffing costs.

“We’re very gifted to have all of these things,” Yarelis said between scratchy announcements blasted over the club’s PA system. “It’s really nice to have all these little, cool features as part of our Teen Tech Lab.”

Yarelis is learning computer programming at the club and also visiting Girls at Work for related skills training — a collaboration between the two nonprofits.

“This allows us to figure out what their interests are and really match up those creative activities,” Fitzpatrick said.

Across the hall, the Boys & Girls Club offers science, technology, engineering and math programs in a much larger space. The Teen Tech Lab will include small group activities as part of its focus.

“We do have a STEM location, but we wanted a specialized place for our kids to have access to technology and education,” Fitzpatrick said. “And after the last year and what we’ve gone through, our kids really needed this.”

In May, the club completed a $1.9 million addition to its Union Street property. The 4,000 square feet of extra space allowed it to expand services elsewhere in the building. The club returned to full programming Sept. 7 after many months of pandemic restrictions that limited how many kids it could serve.

“The new annex has allowed us to reconfigure spaces to bring more access to hands-on activities,” said Fitzpatrick, whose hands-on activities Thursday included taking some kids on a field trip to go apple picking.

Ryan Clark, regional director for external affairs at AT&T, said the company had been looking for a nonprofit partner for its technology campaign. They learned about the club’s lab project from board member Lisa Thorne, director of communications for the University System of New Hampshire.

“One of our missions right now is to close the homework gap and digital divide,” Clark said. “That’s one of the big efforts that we’ve seen with the rise of the pandemic. It just enhanced everybody’s awareness that, OK, everybody needs to have access to the internet and technology.”

Mayor Joyce Craig and state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro were among the guests who attended the small gathering Wednesday.

“Providing technology opportunities to the youth in Manchester is a wonderful thing. We know our youth are looking for this, and it really engages them in their learning,” Craig said. “And that we have it right here in the club now will be fantastic.”

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at or (603) 206-7724.

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