LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Federal funding will help the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse get kids interested in future careers.

U.S. Representative Ron Kind said securing federal funding in the recent omnibus budget bill was one of his final tasks before he leaves congress.

He joined the Clubs’ CEO Jake Erickson on Wednesday to announce the $1.5 million in funds going towards an addition to the Erickson Club.

This includes a future workforce readiness center that will have more space for STEM-focused kids programs.

“I’ve always believed that the best investment we can make as a country is in our youth, to make sure they’re given every opportunity to be successful and to succeed in life,” said Rep. Kind. “Especially with the hyper-competitive global economy that we find ourselves in.”

Rep. Kind himself spent time at the clubs when he was young.

“I was a beneficiary as a club rat here on the north side growing up,” said Rep. Kind. “I could’ve taken a wrong turn. I could’ve ended up almost anywhere, but the club steered me in a very positive direction, and I want to make sure that opportunity is there for the next generation now.”

The new workforce readiness programming will focus on offering kids a chance to learn about trade and manufacturing jobs.

Club kids can learn what they like and don’t like about certain skills and trades.

Joan Parke, the Chief Operating Officer for the Clubs, says they already offer some programs through partnerships with local companies, and they’re a big hit with the kids.

“We have a great partnership right now with Trane Technologies,” said Parke. “They come in and run some STEM programming for us, and what we found is that some of those kids that normally have some behavioral issues, or have a lot going on at home and at school, that’s the one hour of the day where they’re laser-focused. They’re really engaged, they’re having fun, they’re learning something, and they’re feeling good about themselves.”

This funding won’t cover all the costs for building the expansion and starting up programming, but Parke says they’re hoping to break ground on the new building sometime next year.

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January 27, 2023 @ 7:16 am

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