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By Ken Lutes

We believe in the power of one.”

That’s the motto of the new Gold Crown Clubhouse in the heart of Edgewater, where individuals aged 10 to 18 can go to be creative and learn or improve technology skills. “We’re a completely free afterschool drop-in program for kids,” said Michael Nimmo, one of the Clubhouse facilitators.

Each day, approximately 25 to 30 kids can be found in the Clubhouse, exploring or nurturing skills developed on the STEAM model of education, which uses science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics as access points for students to discover their ability to create and think critically. Clubhouse membership stands at about 200.

Edgewater’s Gold Crown Clubhouse opened in January, after two years of renovations to the one-time community church at 2501 Chase St.

“We couldn’t be happier with the location, because our program depends on kids getting to it on their own,” said Fran Baker, Gold Crown Enrichment’s director since 2003.

“The kids are here because they want to be here. Anyone aged 10 to 18 is welcome. This location in the middle of the neighborhood is wonderful.”

Gold Crown Enrichment (the Clubhouse) is a division of the Gold Crown Foundation, which has had a long-standing relationship with Jefferson County Schools, including Jefferson High School and Edgewater and Lumberg elementary schools.

A tour through the clubhouse boasts seven main learning centers where members can explore and employ their abilities in digital arts, graphic design, painting and illustration, fashion and screen printing, engineering and robotics, film and photography, and a recording studio.

It may sound like a lot for newcomers to take in, but Nimmo says there’s no pressure put on kids to get involved with anything right away.

“In fact,” he says, “we have three phases: hanging out, for kids new to the programs who might only want to come to the lounge to talk to their friends; checking out, where they see the opportunities available; and geeking out, when they’ve found their niche, and we can help them build a portfolio that will help them in moving up to higher education.”

While the clubhouse focus is on high-tech tools, “analog” opportunities abound for creating other projects such as utilizing a manual silk-screen printing process.

“We’ve had multiple kids start their own clothing line,” said Nimmo. “The kids create their own designs and learn to ‘burn’ them into an emulsified silk screen and print them onto clothing.”

In the course of this manual process, the designs may be created or enhanced using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and other digital tools. “The Clubhouse is also a psychologically safe place for kids to come to,” said Nimmo, “where kids can talk about their personal problems. Recently, we had a student, a junior in high school – an amazing artist – who came in September for the first time; we’ve built a relationship of trust and now he’s come out of his shell and says he wants to become an illustrator, and we’re helping him to build a portfolio of his work.”

Another success story is that of Celine, a young lady who came in on a tour from Jefferson High.

“She realized there are kids here just like her here, who feel they aren’t in the mainstream,” Baker said. Celine was helped to advance from an illustrator to a graphic designer and wound up not only winning the poster contest for this summer’s Edgewater Summer Events but also a laptop.

“We chose her to go to Boston for the Teen Summit, along with two members from our Lakewood site. They got to stay five days on Boston University campus and be with kids from other parts of the world.”

“Celine is a prime example of that model of a kid who came to hang out and eventually starting geeking out,” added Nimmo. “When she got here, she was quiet and reserved, but she gained her confidence and blossomed into a natural leader for some of the other members.”

It’s a must for facilitators to have fairly deep experience in all the learning areas at the Clubhouse. Nimmo attended the Art Institute of Colorado and then taught art and painting for seven years in Florida; he’s worked for Nintendo and comic book companies; and for a YouTube channel with two million subscribers; and he’s in charge of IT for the facility. Along the way, he accrued the skills and talents that serve the young Clubhouse members. He’s even been a stand-up comedian.

“When we go through the hiring process,” Baker said, “we look for people who are curious learners themselves and can help level the playing field for many of the kids that we serve, by giving them skills to change their lives.

“Our mission is to teach technology, and through that to teach kids the skills that help them become self-sufficient; to help them either to get into college, or, now more than ever, into careers or certifications.”

Gold Crown Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation based in Lakewood, founded in 1986 by former Denver Nugget Bill Hanzlik and Colorado business leader Ray Baker. In 2003, Gold Crown Enrichment joined the Clubhouse Network, founded by The Museum of Science, Boston, Mass., in collaboration with the MIT Media Laboratory.

Kids can drop in at the facility Monday through Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.; from 1 to 6 p.m. during summer months. For more information, call 720-536-8864, visit goldcrownfoundation.com, or check out their YouTube channel: bit.ly/2DjsFwe.

Contact Ken Lutes at ken.ngazette@gmail.com.