Toronto – Together with Toronto Mayor David Miller, Microsoft Canada  has announced the expansion of the successful ProTech Media Centre program  to three Priority Neighbourhoods for Investment. “This is a perfect example of private and public-sector partners coming together to provide innovative opportunities in Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods,” said Mayor Miller. “It’s especially important that local youth have been involved in this project from the start, and that many more youth will pass through these doors. The creative possibilities and career benefits provided by ProTech are boundless.” The announcement was made at the opening of the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre, located within the Toronto Public Library – Kennedy/Eglinton branch at 2380 Eglinton Avenue East.
The Pro Tech program offers free digital arts and technology skills training. The expansion effort is made possible by a Microsoft Canada Unlimited Potential Community Technology Skills  grant of $1 million in cash, digital learning curriculum and Microsoft-based technology. “The overwhelming success of the Rexdale ProTech Media Centre in Jamestown is motivating Microsoft Canada, the City of Toronto  and community partners to expand the program to three additional neighbourhoods,” said Eric Gales, President, Microsoft Canada. “Today’s youth incorporate technology into every part of their daily lives. By providing access to technology and education we’re feeding their curiosity and creativity with the hope of generating interest in pursuing careers in technology related fields.” The City of Toronto is also supporting the program through its Partnership Opportunities Legacy Fund, which has set aside $13 million for Toronto’s 13 Priority Neighbourhoods for Investment, to be leveraged by funding from outside partners for youth-focused social and recreational infrastructure projects.
ProTech Centres provide neighbourhood youth with free access to state-of-the-art technology including digital arts (animation, web design, digital photography, audio and video editing) and Microsoft curricula to introduce youth to potential careers in new media while providing computer literacy skills and creating opportunities for self-expression.
The Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre is the second centre to open after the Rexdale ProTech Media Centre  in Jamestown launched in July 2007. Rexdale’s centre has been an overwhelming success; since the doors first opened the centre has attracted more than 1,000 registered members and more than 9,600 repeat visits from local youth. Planning for additional ProTech Media Centres in Malvern and Weston-Mount Dennis is underway, with those centres set to open in the near future .
Partners for the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre include Tropicana Community Services , the City of Toronto, the Toronto Public Library  and Centennial College . Tropicana Community Services is acting as the grant trustee and will be responsible for the day-to-day centre operations. “Tropicana is thrilled to be a part of this initiative. We envision the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre becoming a real hub for youth in this community,” said Sharon Shelton, Executive Director, Tropicana Community Services. “Many of today’s youth are very excited about technology. The media centre is a great opportunity to really connect with youth and assist them in turning a curiosity or passion into a lifelong hobby or career.”
The City of Toronto paid to create a brand-new space for the centre, which is supported by and housed within the Toronto Public Library – Kennedy/Eglinton branch. “We were so pleased that the local youth wanted the library to be the location for the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre,” said Jane Pyper, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library. “This really speaks to the library’s role as a dynamic community destination that engages youth in meaningful ways, that encourages them to develop their skills and interests, and that provides them with opportunities to advance their education and explore their creativity.”
Centennial College is helping to develop the centre’s programs and providing volunteers to mentor youth and coordinate new media workshops. “Centennial College has long been a community touchstone for outreach projects in Scarborough, and I am delighted that we can be part of this excellent initiative to introduce new media skills to local youth,” said Ann Buller, President and CEO, Centennial College. “I’m especially happy to see our own creative communications students taking a lead role in coordinating the workshops and mentoring other young people. Learning is especially engaging when it’s peer to peer.”
Editor’s note: We tried unsuccessfully to open a centre somewhat similar to the ProTech programme in our hometown of Aldergrove, where this is next to nothing for teens to do – our application for a business license was turned down, and we were informed by both the Licensing Department and the Township Council that we were welcome to open – as an arcade, with arcade limitations. Or, we could open as an educational drop-in centre, but no games allowed, not even in development and testing stages. One memorable quote from that appearance before Council: “The computer industry is very competitive and we (the Township) have to protect ourselves.” -Councillor Mel Kositsky. I have no idea what he meant by that, and I’m sad that the majority of Township Councillors voted our bylaw amendment proposal down. We had some support on Council, but not enough.