By Joshua Burd
The Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City is teaming with business leaders to create a new training center for local students, seeking to grow the region’s economy beyond the hospitality sector.
Stakeholders announced that the organization is launching what’s known as a STEAM Lab, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Its goal is to groom students for sustainable jobs in an expanded regional economy, a concept that is modeled in part on the successful STEAM program run by the Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
Atlantic City Development Corp., the developer behind the mixed-use Gateway project in the city’s historic Chelsea’s section, is supporting the initiative. Renovations for one of the facilities are now underway at the Chelsea Club on Sovereign Avenue.
“STEAM training is a pathway to so many of the jobs of the future,” said Lisa Jackson of Apple Inc., an adviser for the program, who is the former head of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “This initiative is exactly what is needed right now, a well-timed boost for Atlantic County students.”
Bill and Ginny Gormley, along with Lee and Sandy Levine, provided seed money for the Atlantic City STEAM Lab, according to a news release. They noted that the facility will provide hands-on educational and career exploration opportunities in STEAM fields for students from Atlantic City, Brigantine and Ventnor, who will use Apple computers to master the skills they will need to help expand the local economy.
Other advisers to the program include Ginny Gormley’s daughter, Salesforce Executive Vice President Suzanne DiBianca, along with Harvey Kesselman of Stockton University, John Farmer Jr. of Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, Tony Rodio of Caesars Entertainment and Father Jon Thomas of Our Lady Star of the Sea.
“Opportunities like this are not common enough for our youth, its promise is immense,” said Stephanie Koch, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City. “STEAM education in urban communities, like Atlantic City, expands learning that leads to self-sustaining jobs, technical innovation and a homegrown workforce that will turn the curve of change for the local economy, reeling from the pandemic’s impact.”
For his part, Bill Gormley thanked noted philanthropist Ray Chambers for introducing him to Boys & Girls Clubs, “showing me the true impact they can have on a community and for our next generation.” The news release also noted that, as part of AC Devco and the Chelsea Economic Development Corp.’s efforts to develop a neighborhood plan, the organization connected Gormley and Koch as a step toward creating better-paying jobs and career pathways for youth.
Stakeholders added that Atlantic City is home to a variety of ethnicities and cultures, with more than two dozen languages spoken in the city, dovetailing with STEAM employers’ desire for a diverse workforce.
The Boys and Girls Club has three locations in Atlantic City, the news release said. The Chelsea Club on Sovereign Ave will house the STEAM Lab focusing on robotics and coding for seventh- and eighth-graders, while its facility on Pennsylvania Avenue will house STEAM programming in graphic design, music and video production.
The organization will provide youth participants with transportation so that they can move between facilities to take advantage of the different STEAM activities available at each.