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Computers would open doors for city youth

A computer lab in the Hamilton Hill Arts Center is supposed to serve up to 12 people at a time, but for now, only three of the community center's nearly 10-year-old machines are operational.

Nearly 30 people per day attempt to use the computers. Many of them have to wait in line to do so.

Adults use the lab to check e-mail.

Teens often use the computers to do their homework, and young children use the lab to learn the basics of graphic design and watch the popular Cheetah Girls videos on YouTube.

Sarai Williams, 9, was designing a Father's Day card during a class earlier this month. She said she also likes to do arts and crafts projects and play games on the computer.

Williams is one of several children enrolled in graphic design classes with digital artist Sharon Cropper two days each week after school.

Cropper teaches her students how to use programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. But, she said, it's hard to teach students with obsolete software and failing hardware.

The computers are old and they're crashing, said Cropper, who noted that the lab is also in dire need of a printer.

But state lawmakers may soon solve Cropper's problem.

Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Amsterdam, visited Cropper's class on Thursday, June 5, to announce the award of a $7,500 legislative grant to the center's Executive Director Mikki Conn.

Amedore said the after-school programs at the arts center were essential to creating a strong residential community in downtown Schenectady.

"These kids are in school all day, but here at the center they continue to teach literacy skills and the arts," said Amedore. "It helps promote a well-balanced, well-rounded person with more opportunities for success in life."

Conn said the center will use the funds to buy approximately 12 new computers. Part of the funding will also go to technical assistance and staff. She said the center could also receive funds from other local organizations.

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