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Quick and Dirty

High-Tech Handouts

By Christina Royster-Hemby | Posted 8/31/2005

“We don’t just teach kids how to use Microsoft Office, we teach them how to have fun at the computer,” says Charles Parker, 46, lab director of the Right Clique, a new free computer lab on North Charles Street in Charles Village. Parker says the Right Clique is a new program of Positive Contacts, Inc., a Lilburn, Ga.-based nonprofit organization that provides enrichment programs for young people in Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, N.C., Dover, Del., and Greenwood, S.C. The lab is one of a few in the city where students of all ages can not only use computers for free but also get free internet access and computer training.

Parker trains middle- and high-school students to teach younger, less-experienced kids basic computer skills. In exchange, the kids who teach earn credits that apply to the 75 community-service hours the Baltimore City Public School System requires all of its students to earn before they graduate.

Kids who show up at the Right Clique can get training in basic applications, like Microsoft Office, but they can also use the lab for creative and fun endeavors. For example, Parker says he teaches kids to use Macromedia, a software program that can be used to edit movies. “That is what keeps kids interested in learning and creating,” he says.

Parker opened the lab on Aug. 15 after taking an informal survey of the number of free computer labs accessible to kids in the Charles Village area. He says there aren’t too many places where kids can get access to free computers, and those places where they can—Village Learning Place and the Waverly library branch, for example—require kids to have a library card to partake.

“The lack of resources in the community means that doing homework can be a difficult proposition for kids who don’t have a computer at home,” Parker says.

The Right Clique also takes donations of used computers and buys old computers at auction, which Parker refurbishes and sells for as little as $99.95. The proceeds from the sale of those machines is reinvested back into the computer lab.

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