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story.lead_photo.caption Captains: Project leaders, pictured from left, are Team IT captain William Clayton, project manager Christopher White and Team Paint captain Karen Cunningham. Brittany Williams/News-Times

A group of compassionate South Arkansas Community College students upgraded the computer lab at the Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado’s Northwest Unit.

SouthArk’s Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) chapter, under the direction of Donna Hendricks, took on the task as part of its annual community service project. According to previous News-Times reports, PBL is also responsible for the college’s award-winning Career Closet that provides business attire and career advice to students in need.

Several PBL members are also studying under the Futures in Information Technology (FIT) grant, which is “designed to help educate and employ qualified workers in the Information Technology field,” grant project manager Cathy Harrell said.

Harrell is well connected in the community and works closely with the Boys & Girls Club. She approached PBL with the project, project leader Christopher White said.

BEFORE: This was the Boys & Girls Club’s computer lab before the upgrade done by the SouthArk PBL chapter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“We had about five meetings. The first meeting we had, we pretty much talked about what we were going to need — paint, equipment, software (and) cables for what we need to do,” he said. “Once we found out what we needed, we tried to come up with prices and what stores we needed to get them (at).”

After several meetings, the group decided to tackle the project in two teams — Team Paint and Team Information Technology (IT). Karen Cunningham was the captain of Team Paint and William Clayton was the captain of Team IT, White said.

“We did lay it out in steps, what we wanted to accomplish both on the painting side and on the IT side. We had a list of tasks to do and we had a few others from the school volunteer some time to help us with those different tasks,” Clayton said. “We did all come together to help each other out even though we were on different teams.”

Other students that participated include Michael Roberts, Roslyn Turner, Kyla Davis, Holly Donahoe, Jacob Wallace, Derrick Davis, Darrell Davis, Abigail Davis, Arthur Johnson, Breana Poindexter, Christian Kidwell, Cynthia Landaverde, Dioseline Guzmanmancera.

AFTER: This is the Boys & Girls Club’s computer lab after PBL’s community service project. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Even with two teams of capable and passionate students, they couldn’t do the project alone. PBL received donations from SouthArk, Sherwin Williams, Home Depot and two local families, Cunningham said.

“There were also a few very special members of the school staff that helped us, teachers and staff, that really helped us a lot,” Clayton said.

Harrell, Vicki Badgley and Mike Roberts helped secure equipment and tools for the IT team, White said.

“(Roberts) was very instrumental. He helped us a lot with the networking, helping us put these cable management trays that are on the wall,” Clayton said. “Beforehand, they just had wires hanging down everywhere from the ceiling. He helped us neaten that up a lot and he does a lot of the networking at the school, so he was able to instruct us on what to do.”

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director David Lee was very thankful that the SouthArk students wanted to take on one of the Club’s most important rooms.

“The group approached us with this project idea and we gladly accepted their offer because we saw the significance in what they were doing,” Lee said. “The computer lab is very popular and one of our most important rooms in the Club. Having a functioning computer lab with up to date software allows the kids access to the technology to complete projects and homework assignments here at the Club when they may not have access to the same technology at home.”

The dirty work started with clearing the room and cleaning the walls, before prepping the room for a teal and yellow paint job, Clayton said.

“While they were painting, we took the computers and put them into the art room. That’s where me, Will and some other members worked on those,” White said.

Team IT reloaded the computers’ operating system and installed much-needed programs and games. Once the paint was dried and the computers were refreshed, the desktops were placed and rewired, the Team IT captain said.

“We got to work on (some) networking drops in here that’s running ethernet cable through the ceiling tiles to the switch that’s over in the office and connecting it over to the ISP (internet service provider) so we can get the networking in this room. We also made a networking drop for the art room and for one of the offices down in the hall.”

Initially, the group also wanted to purchase and place new furniture and computers in the lab, Cunningham said.

“These kids deserve a nice computer lab, to be able to sit in and be comfortable,” the Team Paint captain said. “There was a lot of more that we wanted to do, but I think it turned out pretty good. I’m just glad to be apart of it.”

Harrell said that aside from giving back, working in the computer lab gave the students skills that employers seek in the job market.

“The Boys and Girls Club project gave our students a real life, hands-on project requiring them to assess the situation, develop a project plan and implement the project plan,” Harrell said. “Skills they used beyond the painting and cosmetic work included client relationship development, equipment and material research, budget development and management, fundraising, equipment networking, cabling, troubleshooting, and software imaging. The students developed and managed the project by themselves with only consultation from college faculty and staff.”

SouthArk students and faculty facilitate coding classes in the computer lab that provide members “a foundation in which they can build on to prepare them for future jobs in the technology industry,” but it’s also open for adults who need to use the facility as well, Lee said.

“We also allow community groups to use the computer lab for various classes including resume building and job preparation,” the Club director said. “We have already had a group of adults come, before our members arrive, and use the lab to search the Good Grid for resources that can help them.”

While the project at the Northwest Unit is done, there is room for a second phase and more upgrades. For now, they were glad to pitch in a helping hand and use their classroom skills in the community. Feedback “has been good,” Clayton said.

“One of my nieces is in the class and I asked her, ‘What do you think about the new computer lab?’ She said, ‘It’s clean,” Cunningham said.

The Team Paint captain said that they could be making its way to the D. Wetherington Unit to do basic upgrades and paint before replacing computers and furniture.

“We truly appreciate the outstanding job that they did,” Lee said.

To help with this effort, White said that outside entities should donate funds, painting supplies, furniture or new computers to the Boys & Girls.

Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.

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