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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Linwood YMCA/James B. Nutter Community Center just finished a project it’s been working on since before the COVID pandemic, opening a Teen Tech Center.

The room features brand new gaming consoles, equipment, and computer screens, giving local kids access to technology they may not otherwise have at home.

It’s what keeps kids like CJ Criswell coming back.

“Not everybody gets to have a lot of systems and gaming systems so the fact that I get the chance to do all this is actually really fun,” Criswell said.

Linwood YMCA Associate Executive Director Andre Stigler Jr. said that’s the point.

“[The new and current gaming consoles] gives them the opportunity to be in front, and be ahead of the curve for once,” Stigler said.

Data shows many households around the Linwood YMCA building made around $25,000 to $40,000 a year. Pew Research Center findings show that makes it much less likely that those home have technology or reliable internet access that might exist in other communities.

The Linwood YMCA Teen Tech Center tries to solve both those problems.

“It opens kids’ eyes to things that they’ve never experienced before,” Stigler said.

The internet connections can be used for gaming or to get homework done. The gaming the kids wants draws them in, giving Stigler and his staff a chance to connect with them to provide the mentorship or help they need.

“From there, we can create curriculum to keep them in the room,” Stigler said. “So, ‘Hey, you can play these video games, but did you know you can go to college?”

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