Pac-12 donates Technology Center in gratitude for hosting championship

As ASU students gear up for Saturday’s Pac-12 Championship game, students at the ASU Preparatory Academy get the opportunity to use the brand new Technology Center.

The center was unveiled Thursday by Pac-12 officials, who said they are donating the space’s new makeover to show their gratitude to the ASU community for hosting the championship game.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony included guest appearances from Sparky, the ASU Spirit Line, Pac-12 representatives and ASU student athletes. And less than an hour after the ceremony began, the Technology Center was already full of smiling students utilizing the equipment, including new tablets, HP computers and printers, a 72-inch flat screen television and gaming consoles.

Kevin Weiberg, the deputy commissioner of the Pac-12, said the Technology Center project goes farther than the gadgets, and is about the message conveyed to the community.

“This is about a marriage between the sport’s side and the education side of the Pac-12,” he said. “We believe we’re responsible for giving back and introducing technology where it’s needed.”

As he was speaking, a toddler approached Weiberg, who then stooped down to talk to the boy. After some prompting from his father, the boy said, “Thank you for this,” and gestured across the room.

The new center stemmed from what many called an extreme makeover of the existing media center space, where many of the school’s activities for students, parents and the general community are held.

The Technology Center is part of Pac-12′s ongoing project, which has donated similar centers to the surrounding communities of the championship hosts for three years.

Deborah Gonzalez, chief academic officer at the ASU Preparatory Academy, discussed the quick turnaround for the project, as the center would only be granted to the community of the hosting university of the Pac-12 Championship game.

“We found out last Wednesday that we would be a possible recipient, but the outcome depended on the Sun Devils winning the Territorial Cup in Saturday’s game,” she said. “We knew we would be the beneficiaries of this service project Saturday evening when ASU defeated UA.”

To complete the center in time, Pac-12 enlisted the help of volunteers, including ASU athletics alumna Hillary Bach, who played ASU softball and graduated with her MBA in the 2013 summer semester.

She said that watching the students use the equipment at the end of her three days of work made it worthwhile.

“That’s the very best part. It’s the sprinkles on the cake,” she said as she looked around the room. “That’s what ASU teaches us, to give back to the community. It’s so great to achieve my dreams as an ASU athlete, and now we can provide the same opportunity for these kids.”

Soon a group of boys lit up the television, and began to play the popular video game, “Just Dance.” Laughter erupted as the group began to dance in unison, while volunteers looked and whispered to each other, smiling.

According to a Pac-12 Media Advisory, the Free and Reduced Lunch standards define more than 70 percent of the student population at the ASU Preparatory Phoenix Campus to be in low-income households. The academy is a public school that admits all students, space permitting, and has received A and B letter grades this year by the Arizona Department of Education.

ASU Preparatory Academy CEO Beatriz Rendon said all the Academy students feel like future Sun Devils, and are frequently seen displaying the “Pitchfork” hand sign.

She also said that ultimately, the effects of the Technology Center are most important when looking at the student body, and what message it sends to them as they prepare for further education.

“Our students know how much we care about them, but when an outside party comes in like this, it makes a huge statement, that it’s not just their teachers, it’s not just their parents, and the whole community cares about their future,” she said.

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