Witnessing Impact: Changing the Game for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula

By Mike Woollems, Corporate VP of Finance at AMD and board member of the AMD Foundation
Sep 15, 2011 4:00 PM ET

Witnessing Impact: Changing the Game for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Penisula

The launch of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula’s (BCGP) new Technology Center of Excellence last month gave me the unique opportunity to see firsthand the real effects of our signature education initiative, AMD Changing the Game. As a board member of the AMD Foundation, I played a part in our decision to support BGCP, located in Menlo Park, California, by helping to fund its new Center of Excellence. The Center of Excellence, co-sponsored by Microsoft, provides access to fully loaded computers with new software. Our funding also supports the implementation of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Club Tech: Game Tech, a digital game development program at the Club.

Visiting the Club really drove home for me the importance of supporting organizations like these, which create invaluable opportunities for learning and growth for our communities’ youth (BCGP provides youth with academic, social, and physical education programs in a creative and fun environment after school). As a finance professional, discussions about return on investment are second nature to me. However, the term takes on new meaning when you get to interact with inspiring youth who are building a foundation for future success.

On the morning of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the new Center of Excellence was filled with enthusiastic young Club members, who even among all the buzz and anticipation were focused on their individual projects, from creating games at new AMD computer stations to building programmable Lego robots.

Fifteen-year-old Alexis, a long time Club member, was absorbed with Scratch, a program which allows young users to use a simple programming language to creative interactive stories, games, music, and art. He sat next to two other Club members, showing them how to program their animations to spin in circles and flash different colors. Alexis described Scratch as “a way to learn game programming in a simpler format,” and explained that he spends a lot of his time helping other kids create their own stories with the program.

The time allotted to working with programs like these is part of the Game Tech program, which provides Club members ages 10-13 with an introduction to the field of video game development and the principles of design, animation mechanics and computer programming. The Game Tech program at BGCP is just one of four programs that AMD will have implemented in Boys & Girls Clubs by the end of this year, in addition to the six programs implemented in 2010.

The goal of these programs is to provide not only an exciting way for Club members to explore their creative and technological abilities, but also a crucial avenue for development of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and critical thinking skills, which can translate into future careers in medicine, engineering, and countless other fields. It’s easy for kids to lose interest in math and science courses in school. I believe Changing the Game helps keep kids engaged, interested, and passionate about these subjects and even inspires them to pursue further STEM education. By encouraging the development of creative and marketable workplace skills, AMD contributes to the well-being and economic health of the local communities that help make us successful.

Of course, many programs look great on paper, and promise great educational results. But just seeing how engaged these kids were with their projects, and how enthusiastically they approached the opportunity to use new technology to create and learn, was proof enough for me that our contribution has a critical and positive impact. This is just one of the great things about Changing the Game—by helping to create and implement programs like Game Tech, and supplying up-to-date, quality technology for these programs, we can make a real, tangible difference in kids’ lives. Just ask seventh-grader Saul, who told us Game Tech was his favorite program at the Boys & Girls Club. Why? “Because I can learn about stuff I actually like doing.”

[1] BGCP’s Report to Stakeholders (2010), p.2

Mike Woollems is Corporate VP of Finance at AMD and a board member of the AMD Foundation. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.


AMD Changing the Game is designed to take gaming beyond entertainment and inspire youth to learn critical education and life skills by equipping them to create digital games with social content. The program’s purpose is to promote the use of youth game development as a tool to inspire learning and improve science, technology, education and math (STEM) skills. The initiative is rooted in AMD’s long history of supporting education, along with the company’s passion and expertise in the graphics processor and gaming industries.