Hastings, Neb.

Empowering Youth with Technology at "The Zone"

Best Buy donates $8000 to YWCA's The Zone program

An $8,000 grant from Best Buy Children’s Foundation will provide iPads and other technology at YWCA of Adams County’s "The Zone" after-school program.

Two-hundred youth at YWCA’s after-school program in Hastings, Neb., will now have access to iPads and other technology, thanks to a community grant from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation.

YWCA of Adams County’s "The Zone" provides middle- and high-school students with daily after-school programming including mentoring, academic support, computer classes and sports. The program is free to students and their families, and relies on grants and private donations for support. Eighty-six percent of students in the neighborhoods served by the Zone qualify for federal free or reduced lunch.

"We do everything from games to homework to community service projects to life skill learning classes," said Jennifer Lewis, executive director at YWCA of Adams County. Lewis had originally requested a $4,000 grant from Best Buy – but was delighted when Best Buy gave YWCA $8,000 instead.

"When I looked at the [request for] $4,000, I saw that wasn't enough and so I doubled it," Best Buy’s Franc Harwart said of the decision to increase YWCA’s grant.

"This $8,000 grant from the Best Buy Children's Foundation is so important to help keep our program strong. We’re excited to partner with Best Buy to help our youth engage in technology and technology learning," said Lewis, who plans to use the grant to purchase iPads for students with special needs and to support ongoing program operations.

"For 16 years The Zone has partnered with the community to provide an opportunity to help youth engage in learning and stay out of trouble at the same time," noted Lewis, who added that in previous years the program was funded by a federal anti-crime grants. "The Chief of the Hastings Police Department, Larry Thoren, is on our advisory board, and most of our staff and volunteers are from Hastings College," she said.

Hastings College students make up most of the 13 paid staff members and 22 volunteers who mentor the young people in the program.

"This is a win-win for everyone. Our students really look up to their mentors from Hastings College," said Lewis. "The college students are there to guide them and help provide opportunities and exposure they otherwise wouldn’t have. And the college students get real-world experience in the field of education. We’re really proud that 89% of Hastings College graduates who were employed at The Zone are now working professionals in the field of education."

To learn more about YWCA of Adams County’s youth programs and other services, call (402) 462-8821 or visit www.ywcaadamscounty.com.