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Boys and girls Club gets new STEM Center

Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 8:00 am


The Boys & Girls Club of Bedford County now has a hands-on activity center, which has modern, state of the art curriculum and tools for education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

This STEM Center was made possible through a $1.1 million partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

“Cal Ripken didn’t miss a game. He never missed a day of work,” said Chris Smith, a Community Relations Manage for TVA. “It shows stick–to–itiveness is going to be part of that. That’s part of getting up every day, learning something new, getting after it, and making yourself one-percent better every day.”

Bedford County was one of 27 communities across the Tennessee Valley to receive this grant. Each STEM Center is equipped with six Chromebooks, a Tech Tub to safely store computers, a 3D printer, educational STEM products, and a custom-designed curriculum tied to Next Generation Science Standards, a mobile workbench, seven elemental clover tables, and 28 stackable chairs. They are designed to help capture a student’s interest with STEM activities, introduce them to new careers, and foster critical thinking skills that improve test performance, self-esteem, and school attendance.

A new 3D printer is available for kids to try at the Boys and Girls Club of Bedford County, located on Madison Street.

Gracie Turner, Program Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Bedford County, said, “It’s always a blessing when we can show off our center.”

Jason Reese, General Manager of Shelbyville Water, Power, and Sewer – who has been a partner of TVA for 85 years – said, “I believe STEM education is important for our children because it’s a part of our everyday lives.”

Quoting research from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Reese said STEM-related jobs are projected to grow over two-times faster than non-STEM-related positions. The STEM jobs include engineering, architecture, biologist, chemist, computer scientists, and software developers.

Reese also pointed out the timeliness of this STEM Center addition with all the educational opportunities present in Bedford’s “backyard,” such as the new Higher Education Center on U.S. 231 and the development of Motlow and Middle Tennessee State University aviation programs.

“As a father of a kindergartener and a pre-K, I think this is a great thing. I want to see these opportunities for all the kids in Bedford County,” he said.

Gary Harris, Director of Government and Community Relations for TVA, talked about the impact of the Boys and Girls Club on him growing up in public housing in a California town.

“It was the first time I ever picked up a pool cue or ping-pong. But the thing I remembers so vividly in mind…I had structure. I was safe,” he said. “This place is something special.

Harris explained the group’s outside-in approach, where they start on the outside of the system, the rural areas that have the least opportunity.

“We made it intentional to pick places like Shelbyville,” said Harris. “Because we want our kids out here to have the same chance as everybody’s kids in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville.”

Speakers at the ribbon cutting for the STEM Center thanked the many partners that make opportunities like this possible.

“Shelbyville Power, great partner,” said Harris. “We know how things run and this place runs well. Jason Reese and his team run well. So I appreciate all of you.”