After putting in a school day at Newman Elementary, third-grader Kaylee Ramos got to have some fun at the Billings Family YMCA on a recent afternoon.
Kaylee, 9, called up the Fashion Design New York program on a computer and began putting together her own fashion show. She dressed a brunette model in a red skirt and top and blue strappy shoes by clicking and dragging the pieces from a wardrobe to the model. To accessorize the ensemble, she clicked and dragged a gold necklace.
Kaylee said she likes to “play games and have some fun” on the computer.
Kaylee is among the grade school and preschool children who are giving the YMCA’s new Tutoring/Technology Center a workout while learning.
The center is used by the YMCA’s Afterschool and Preschool programs to enhance computer skills for children in Billings and gives low-income children access to technology they may not have available at home. The after-school programs serve 305 children. The preschool classes are full at 88 children.
“The Y is so much more than a swim and gym,” said Tina Postel, the YMCA’s CEO. “We want to help children succeed in academics as well as in healthy living. The recent support we’ve received for this learning center makes clear the community shares our vision,” she said.
The computer center is located in a room off of a main play area in the basement. Ten computers are stationed at pint-sized desks. Four more computers are on the way, said Shannon George, director of the preschool and afterschool programs.
The center, which has been open for a month, is a hit with the kids.
“It’s kind of a fight” for the kids to get their names on the list for 15 minutes on a computer, George said. “Every day the list is long. It’s been a very positive thing.”
The computers are loaded with educational programs and games designed to support learning while advancing computer skills, George said. There is Internet access, and students also are able to do homework on the computers. Counselors are on hand to assist. There are no video games.
“We purchased a wide variety of computer programs that are suitable for all ages, so even the kindergartners can enjoy working on computers,” George said.
The center was funded with grants and donations, including a $10,000 grant from the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation and additional support from US Bank, the Sample Foundation, D.A. Davidson and Target Stores. First Interstate Bank donated the computers. Altitude Technology donated the computer set-up.