Newly renovated Best Buy Teen Tech Center unveiled at Little Black Pearl

Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy freshman Kharlee Miller and senior Steven Austin (center holding scissors) are joined by Little Black Pearl Director of Development Zakeya Cartman (to Austin and Miller’s right), Little Black Pearl Associate Director Arlesia Duran (in white), Best Buy Director of Diversity and Inclusion Eric Fulbright (to the right of Duran) and volunteers from Best Buy and Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated Teen Tech Center at The Little Black Pearl Workshop, 1060 E. 47th St., Thursday, Aug. 30. The renovation of the Center was made possible through the joint efforts of Best Buy, The Heart of America Foundation, and The Little Black Pearl Workshop. -Marc Monaghan

Contributing Writer

Alumni, new students and current students of Little Black Pearl and volunteers from Best Buy gathered early on Aug. 30 to add finishing touches to the school’s newly renovated Teen Tech Center.

The Best Buy Teen Tech Center, located within Little Black Workshop, 1060 E. 47th St., unveiled the newly renovated space later that afternoon with a ribbon-cutting event.

The team of workers helped complete the tech center’s transformation by assembling tables, installing carpet tile and painting.

“At our company one of our values is about making things beautiful and this is truly a human endeavor,” said Eric Fulbright, a lifelong Chicagoan and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Best Buy. “You think about the teens that will enter into this place, they may not know exactly what they want to do, they may not have an idea of what tomorrow will bring, but this gives them the opportunity to think about tomorrow. Having grown up in a community just like this one, sometimes just having the space where you can think about tomorrow and have a broader perspective than you had earlier before you walked through the doors can be life-changing in itself.”

The Best Buy Teen Center, which was created through a partnership between Best Buy, Little Black Pearl Workshop and Heart of America, provides a safe learning environment where youth can explore their ideas, develop new skills and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.

The refreshed space is equipped with new flooring, furniture, a fresh coat of paint, a remodeled lounge area, new equipment for the recording studio, graphics and more.

“It was the perfect combination of volunteerism because it allowed the students here to invest, to make the space better and respect it,” said Jill Heath, president and CEO of the Heart of America Foundation. “This is theirs, and this is a part of their experience here just by making the space their home. The resources they have here will inspire the youth to imagine what’s possible in the areas of science, engineering, technology, math and arts.”

At the Best Buy Teen Tech Center, teens from age 12 to 19 learn how to develop projects based on their own interests such as creating art and music animations, designing their own 3-D worlds and games, writing and illustrating interactive poetry, stories and film or creating their own science simulations using technology and mobile applications.

“The center offers a wide variety of state-of-art technology that helps our students learn how to use professional software to express themselves creatively,” said Armand Morris, Graphic Design and Teen Tech Coordinator. “Here, they have the technology and the mentorship that mirrors what they could expect in college.”

Jadon Cunningham, a sophomore at Little Black Pearl, volunteered with his friends to help transform the Tech Center before the big unveiling.

“This year, I’ll be starting my second year at Little Black Pearl,” said Cunningham. “It’s been a great experience to learn from my teachers and peers, understand how to express my art and culture through the resources we have at the Tech Center and develop my skills as an artist.”

Cunningham, who likes to draw and use art as a means of creative expression, hopes to pursue a career in graphic design and art one day.

“It’s a good place to be, I’m glad I can be a part of this,” he said.

During the unveiling, staff members thanked everyone for their immense dedication to the newly opened Tech Center. Before the ribbon was cut, Fulbright surprised everyone by pledging a $1,000 to the Tech Center and future programing of Little Black Pearl.

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