A teenager adjusts a blue wristband designed to eliminate static charges when she touches a computer. So protected, she can begin to disconnect the motherboard, the computer’s main circuit board.
Like most of the young participants in the Mediterranean Youth Technology Club (MYTecC), this girl’s information technology skills surpass those of many adults.
“MYTecC is a one-stop information and communications technology shop for Palestinians who are young and skilled,” says EDC’s Hisham Jabi. MYTecC participants learn valuable computer skills, from assembly to information sharing. The two-year afterschool program combines the technology and computer skills these students acquire with an interactive English-language curriculum that will enable them to communicate virtually with each other as a youthful social network.
The idea is to leverage a digital network that unites young people ages 14 to 18 from the West Bank and seven other countries, including Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.
“We are trying to help them leave their comfort zones, form their own opinions, collaborate with people from all over the world,” says Jabi.
MYTecC is the result of a partnership between EDC’s Ruwwad Palestinian Empowerment Program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Cisco Systems. Other private partnerships with Ruwwad (Arabic for pioneers) include Intel, Microsoft, and Google.
For thousands of Palestinian participants, ages 16 to 30, Ruwwad is seen as a step toward peace in the region. In the West Bank and Gaza since 2005, Ruwwad encourages and empowers young people to become future leaders through community service projects, service learning, activities, and a sports and cultural program. The project also provides livelihood and computer training to prepare youth for jobs in high-tech classrooms inside professional Youth Development Resource Centers, where MYTecC teens converse.
“Through MYTecC, we are trying to enhance 21st-century skills by teaching kids how to understand the computer. For example, they are learning how to upload and send a photo and how to introduce themselves to each other in a chat room,” explains Jabi.
Before students leave MYTecC, they have the opportunity to pursue a professional career in the information and communications technology sector, which would allow them to enter the IT job market or attend advanced training or schooling.
The important thing, says Jabi, these teenagers from the Middle East region are learning to collaborate with each other, regardless of race, religion, or age.
“Since MYTecC began, these kids have built strong self-esteem and are much more positive. And their grades are improving,” says Jabi. “MYTecC can be a tipping point for young Palestinian people. It helps them create an empowering lifestyle, instead of one that is flanked by violence.”
Originally published on February 12, 2010