Tech whizzing into San Benito County

The Tech Wizards program has been implemented elsewhere, but is new to San Benito County.

Students at Calaveras School, R.O. Hardin School and Marguerite Maze Middle School will be building rubber band-powered cars and marble roller coasters after school starting next month.
The twice-weekly program called Tech Wizards partners the National 4-H Mentoring Program with the local Youth Alliance to build relationships and teach students about science, technology, engineering and math. This is the first time the wizards program is coming to San Benito County and partnering with the Youth Alliance.
“In our county, what we have figured out is the schools don’t run the afterschool programs,” said Brenna Johns, the 4-H tech wizards coordinator. “They contract with YMCA and Youth Alliance.”
The National 4-H Council awarded the program funding through grant money from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Johns knows first-hand that the program can be transformative. She remembers watching a teen working with the wizards program in Salinas who was afraid to look her in the eyes and speak in public. By the end of the program, he was standing in front of the group and explaining the directions for games.
“Ithink seeing both the kids and the teens come out of their shell is the most rewarding,” Johns said.
The program serves fourth, fifth and sixth graders with 4-H volunteers mentoring the youth as they try projects and games. While the topic of conversation is often math and science related, that’s not the only focus. The program highlights building relationships between youth and older peers, so Johns encourages those who are “not really science minded people” to still consider coming out.
“All we want you to do is build fun experiments with the kids,” Johns said. “And hopefully, you’ll get to learn a little bit about their day or their family.”
The program is currently looking for at least 30 teen mentors who are 18 years old or younger and can consistently attend meetings from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from mid-February through June.
“My favorite part of the program is to see how much fun the kids can have,” Johns said.
Mentors will receive a free T-shirt, monthly bus passes if they consistently attend the program, leadership experience and potential references for job searches, Johns explained in an email.
There will be an information session for potential 4-H mentors from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Building on 649 San Benito St. For more information about becoming a wizard mentor, call Johns at (831) 637-5346 X 13, or send her an email at [email protected]

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