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EDUCATION REPORT -  High School Cyber Cafes - 2004-01-07

Broadcast: January 8, 2004

This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Cyber Café computer centers are found in many cities around the world. Now, a few American high schools are opening these centers. For example, a high school in the state of Maryland began operating a Cyber Café last March. All students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda can use the Cyber Café. But school officials say it especially helps students who have no computer or cannot use the Internet at home.

The officials say thirteen percent of the students at the school are from poor families. Many students have arrived in the United States from other countries only recently. Students in the school’s program for learning English speak twenty-three other languages.

The idea for a Cyber Cafe at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School began three years ago. At that time, officials were planning to restore the school building. Parents interested in technology proposed a Cyber Café.

They wanted this center even though schools in the area had suffered budget cuts. The community wanted to help. It wanted all students to have the best chances to learn.

Officials in the area supported the idea. So did an organization called the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Educational Foundation. The foundation includes parents, teachers, former students, and business, community and other leaders.

Over two years, the foundation collected money for a Cyber Café and other new computers. It received more than one-hundred-seventy-thousand dollars. The Café now has sixteen computers, a printer and a device called a scanner. School official Ann Hengerer (HEN-grr-er) says students use the Internet to complete research. They also write homework and required papers on the computers. In addition, they can send and receive electronic mail. That is especially helpful for the many students who have family members in other nations.

The Cyber Café also serves a social purpose. Visitors can stop by for a drink of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. On Long Island, in New York, the Walter G. O’Connell Copiague (Co-PAYG) High School has six computers in its Cyber Café. One student at the school says students can start their homework even before they leave school.

This VOA Special English Education report was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Bob Doughty.