SAN ANTONIOAfter-school programs are often a place students expect to continue learning outside of the classroom. One San Antonio program though is using technology to amplify that learning and give kids an extra leg-up once they are out of school.

  • Any student age 13-18 can use the Teen Tech Center
  • Program is free
  • Open Monday through Friday, 3:30 – 7:30 p.m.

The Teen Tech Center is an open, exploratory learning space where kids can experiment, fiddle, create, and explore. It’s a free afterschool program sponsored by Best Buy through the Family Service Association of San Antonio.

“We have everything. From being able to build your own computer and take it home for free, or shoot photography, edit those photos, print them out, and take them home. Cinematography, coding, all the way down to textiles and being able to sew or make a cufflink," said Tech Center coordinator Lalo Moreno.

The space is located within The Neighborhood Place, a community center on San Antonio's West Side that provides services to young and old. The facility is full of state-of-the-art technology like robotics, computers, photography equipment, and even a sound studio.  

The goal of the center is to reach kids in a way that is more friend-to-friend and mentor-to-mentee, rather than the typical teacher/student dynamic.

"Hopefully we’re giving them a skillset that they can take not only to a career in the (tech) field – hopefully it’s something they can take with them in whatever career path they choose,” said Moreno.

Brian McDonnell heads up “C2C,” an umbrella program at the Teen Tech Center that requires an application process. 

It's for kids that are looking at going to college or directly to work after high school and helping them acquire additional skills. After completion of the program, kids can receive a paid summer internship.

"It ranges from resume building, interviewing skills, professional development, soft skills like leadership, collaboration – things that aren’t always taught in schools," said McDonnell.  "Then other times we’ll do things in the Teen Tech Center just to give kids a wide spectrum of possibilities."

While the services are potentially life-changing, so are the relationships these kids have formed with not only their peers but also the instructors.

"It's a daily routine. We come here every single day. It’s like you see the same people and say, 'What’s up?' And get on to learning new things, you know. Every single day," said 18-year-old Jacob Sanchez. He’s been going to the Teen Tech Center for the last five years.

For teens like him and 16-year-old Joe Hernandez, it's more than just a place to learn new skills – it's like a second family.

“Lalo’s a big father figure for me not having my dad growing up, and him just showing me how to be a man. Being respectful, treating people with respect. It’s been great. I don’t know what I’d do without some of these people,” said Hernandez.