belfonte.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

LIBERTY CITY — After more than two years of trying, the Belafonte TACOLCY Center finally has a state-of-the-art computer lab, thanks to support from the information technology firm GTECH and The Florida Lottery.


At a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, GTECH Florida Account Development Manager Kathy Jump and Florida Lottery District Manager Tom Dolan joined Belafonte TALCOCY Center CEO Alison Austin and youth from TACOLCY’s literary program, The Freedom School, to introduce parents and the community to the facility.

 “We are proud to provide youth in this community access to the latest technology through our computer labs and we applaud TACOLCY and their families,” Jump said. “It’s about us all working together to provide youth the best opportunities to be successful and we are truly thankful to be in the midst of such wonderful students.”

Austin was joined also by state Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami Shores,  and Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bill Diggs for the June 26 ribbon-cutting. She said the location of the lab is important because of a great need in the community for such a resource.

“In addition to the children at TACOLCY, there are families around us who will now have the opportunity to take advantage of this lab,” Austin said. “We have two other smaller private schools that are in walking distance of us that use our facility and don’t have (computer) labs. Now we can offer them an opportunity for their youth to have labs, as well for parents in the community who don’t have resources at home to check the portals to see how their children are doing in school. They can come and use this lab.”

Deaja James, a fifth-grader at New Christian Academy, stood holding a  banner she and her Freedom School classmates made to acknowledge  support from GTECH which made the donation under its After-School Advantage initiative.

“On behalf of TALCOCY, we would like to say thank you for your generous donation,” Deaja said.

Delphine Dauphin, who sat in the audience, told the South Florida Times she intends to work with her daughter to make the most of the new experience she will have through the lab.

 “It’s a great learning opportunity because a lot of kids don’t know how to use the computer,” Dauphin said. “But here they have someone to help them learn and get the knowledge that comes along with it. As a parent, the knowledge we give our children is an everyday thing. It’s about helping them understand what this education thing is really all about.”

The center is named for entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte and TACOLCY stands for The Advisory Committee of Liberty City Youth. It is located at 6161 N.W. Ninth St. in Miami’s Liberty City community.

Founded in 1966, TACOLCY’s mission is to help youth and families to be educated, positive members of the community. It currently serves more than 2000 youth and their families.

Through the help of Rhode Island-based GTECH, which has locations in 24 states, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada,  the center now has a computer facility equipped with 11 Dell desktop computers with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 applications, as well as workstations, artwork, printers and additional computer software. The package is worth $15,000.

Austin said she has piles of rejection letters that came in response to her request for funding for the lab.

“I’ve been claiming that somebody was going to respond to my request for computers in this building,” she said. “We have been here nearly 50 years and, in that time, we’ve served almost a million children.”

Photo: Jaquan Ivy