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Cassidy Garcia, 7, speaks with guests as she makes slime at the new STREAM lab during the grand opening of the Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside’s Center for Innovation on Nov. 8. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside opens Center for Innovation

OCEANSIDE — A new era is coming to the Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside.

On Nov. 8, the club unveiled its latest addition, the 2,800-square-foot Center for Innovation, which includes a performing arts center, STREAM lab and culinary arts kitchen.

“We provide a kaleidoscope of opportunities for youth to find their passion, whatever that may be,” Oceanside Boys & Girls Club CEO Jodi Diamond said. “How do you know what that you will be if you haven’t been exposed to it? That’s really what we do.”

The center broke ground last year and is a new vehicle for kids to expand their academic and social interests. At a cost of nearly $1 million, the Center for Innovation is the newest gem, where the kids treated guests on Nov. 8 to a performance of “Celebration,” and slime making.

From left to right: Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside Second Vice President Tom Garcia, CEO Jodi Diamond, former board chair Robbie Hass and current board chair Robert Botkin during the Nov. 8 ribbon cutting for the club’s Center for Innovation. Photo by Steve Puterski

Each new addition was strategically considered, said Diamond, who has served as CEO for the past five years. For its culinary arts kitchen, the club received a grant through the California Department of Education several years ago to serve dinners and hot meals.

The money led the club to giving out 125 dinners plus its already implemented snack program. During the process, Diamond said, the kids began taking ownership and cooking the meals.

“We did not have the correct kitchen to cook those meals,” she explained. “We built a commercial kitchen where we can teach our kids how to cook, they can serve our kids and in the interim, they are learning an amazing skill that can serve them for a lifetime, if not a career.”

As for STREAM, San Diego County is a hub of biotech and tech businesses, and with schools incorporating more STEAM and STEM programs, it made sense to incorporate a STREAM lab. STREAM is science, technology, research, engineering, arts and math, similar to STEM and STEAM, but with the added function of research.

The research component, Diamond said, is due to the lightning-fast movement of today’s world. With apps and internet access, information is at the tip of a finger, but how to get those answers and solve problems is a step often overlooked.

Research allows the kids to develop an idea, test it, fix the failures, edit and improve on an idea. In addition, MiraCosta College offers a bachelor’s degree in STEM, so the club’s program provides support and a pathway to a college diploma.

“They, too, are struggling to find qualified employees,” Diamond said. “We are able to start at that baseline understanding of what is STEM, what does problem-solving look like and how does team building work? All of our projects will have the STREAM component.”

Finally, the performing arts center will provide many aspects of the arts, not just the talent on stage. Lighting, set design, choreographers and other aspects are ways the club can channel those passions into a career.

“There are really amazing opportunities at every level,” Diamond said. “They don’t have to settle for a life on the streets. They can choose to have a different life.”