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Computer Clubhouse: Escaping Generational Poverty

Intel Computer Clubhouse encourages underserved students to pursue their dreams

Three youth gather around a computer monitor

Nancy Douyon builds a career on what she learned at the clubhouse

Growing up as the child of recent immigrants who had difficulty speaking English and providing housing and food for the family, then landing in foster care were significant obstacles for Nancy Douyon to overcome.

Today this Intel Computer Clubhouse alumna is a Usability Specialist Consultant at Accenture, holds a Masters in Human Computing Interaction from the University of Michigan, and is well on her way in pursuit of a PhD.

Douyon credits the Intel Computer Clubhouse with helping her to escape from generational poverty by teaching her the technical skills she uses in her professional career today.

"The work that I do is a function of the skills I learned at the clubhouse at age 12," she said in a recent keynote speech at a Boston Museum of Science event. To make sure her audience got the impact of what she said, she continued "I don't think you hear me. I am getting paid to travel around the country to work for multi-million dollar corporations to do something that I learned when I was 12."

Helping youth focus on their goals

How did the Intel Computer Clubhouse help her? “I learned life skills and feel like the most established young professional out there. I am truly a product of the Intel Computer Clubhouse experience. The generosity and hard work of members, volunteers, mentors, and staff at the computer clubhouse inspired me to accomplish tremendous things in my own life. They have been extremely supportive of my goals and have encouraged me every step of the way."

“I assure you the clubhouse is not just an afterschool hangout to where scholars like me can learn multimedia skills—it is a space where my heart, soul, and spirit have found strength to believe in myself. I continue to be guided and grow as an assertive leader, master of sophisticated technology and an exuberant advocate particularly in the area of gender equality. The computer clubhouse helped me set my sights on positive goals, even when circumstances beyond my control challenged me; they contributed to my personal development by helping me become excellent at human factors, research, and information visualization."

Mentors support efforts to stay in school

One time when circumstances were beyond Douyon’s control happened early in her first year of college when she got a letter asking her to leave because she didn't have sufficient funds. Her mentor encouraged her to go to the financial aid office and tell them, "I know you got money."

So she marched into her financial counselor’s office who promptly called security. By the time security arrived, however, the counselor had reconsidered and offered Douyon a small loan and told her she had to find a job.

"From that point on, I was unstoppable," Douyon said. "No one was going to deny me an education and I was going to utilize as many resources as I could locate. I applied to the clubhouse scholarship and received it. I strengthened my clubhouse connections while simultaneously successfully starting a top tier PhD program."

The Intel clubhouse that Douyon found when she was 12 provides opportunities to interact with knowledgeable staff, thoughtful volunteers, and encouraging mentors. Assistance with everything from homework assignments to college visits is included in the clubhouse experience.

"I have not met another scholar who has experienced an environment where there were so many PhD candidates surrounding you that looked just like you.” Douyon recalled, “It was very clear that if you were a member of the clubhouse, college was definitely in your future."

South America

Colombian clubhouse impacts lives

Colombian clubhouse impacts lives

Claudia Marcela Cuadron Leon first went to the Suba Compartir Clubhouse in Bogotá, Colombia in 2002 when a friend recommended a class. Today, she is the clubhouse coordinator.

Leon comes from humble parents who worked in the fields to earn an income. She is the youngest of three children and grew up with the bare necessities at home. At first she visited the clubhouse on Saturdays when she had fulfilled her responsibilities at home. Her parents were supportive. They wanted her to get an education, but finances were tight. In 2007 she was awarded an Intel Computer Clubhouse scholarship, which gave her the opportunity to attend college and earn the equivalent an Associate of Arts degree with an emphasis in Technology, Audiovisual, and Multimedia.

The clubhouse does not only provide students opportunities to learn about technology and innovate with technology. There are projects related to robotics, hip hop music, and about the arts, science, and technology in general.  

"The projects and the overall environment allow us to deal with real life challenges," Leon explains. "In the end, it allows us to grow and be better equipped to deal with life."