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Little Haiti Housing Association's Intel clubhouse caters to curious kids
By Shannon Tan

Ruby Fevrier hopes to start a digital revolution in Little Haiti.

The 24-year-old is the manager of the first Intel Computer Clubhouse in Florida, which will open by the end of the month at the Little Haiti Housing Association.

Catering to youth ages 8 to 18, the building at 181 NE 82nd St. in Miami will include two digital music studios and 16 workstations. Intel is investing $915,000 over the next few years to open two more clubhouses in Miami-Dade County.

''We wanted to go into cities where there was a great need -- where there was a great difference between those who have access to the new economy and those who don't,'' said Roma Arellano, community-based education manager at Intel. ``Miami emerged among one of the cities that have the need. There's a great deal of poverty.''

And as part of a Microsoft initiative announced Wednesday, more than 50 Club Techs will be rolled out throughout Florida.

Three units of the Boys & Girls Club of Fort Lauderdale, as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Miami, will have Club Tech programs.

''We're looking to have Club Techs in every Boys & Girls Club across the United States,'' Microsoft spokeswoman Brandy Bishop said of the five-year, $100 million program.

Once young people realize that music and art can be seamlessly fused with technology, they'll want to learn more about computers, Fevrier said.

''They could get really cool jobs out of high school,'' said Fevrier, who started going to a computer clubhouse in Boston when he was 15, later graduating from Massachusetts College of Art. ``Once they realize what they can do with the software, there's millions of jobs.''

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, which makes computer chips, launched the Computer Clubhouse Network two years ago. There are now 100 clubhouses worldwide.

The Little Haiti clubhouse is funded by Intel and United Way, which is chipping in $120,000 over two years. Instead of having a structured curriculum, volunteer mentors will will teach kids how to design websites and produce music CDs or videos, depending on their interests.

''Kids who don't do well in a structured situation in school respond to a clubhouse,'' said Brenda Trigg, director of community programs at the Little Haiti Housing Association. ``It helps them reconnect with the fun of learning.''

The clubhouse will primarily serve the Haitian community, but is open to everyone. It will be open 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Mondays are 'girls' days.''

''Sometimes girls get a little intimidated about using technology with boys in the room,'' Trigg said. ``You don't want to make a mistake in front of the boys, so they get timid.''

Meetings to educate parents on the benefits of the clubhouse will be held at a community room.

''Once I started with the computer clubhouse, I had an idea about what I really wanted to do in my life,'' Fevrier said. ``I wanted to do technology, and combine that with art.''

For more information on the Intel program, call 305-759-2542.