Lansing, Mich., native and former basketball star Magic Johnson has opened centers in Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston devoted to his goal of making sure every child knows how to use a computer. On May 15, he opened one in his hometown, too.

The 11th Magic Johnson HP Inventor Center at Lansing’s Black Child and Family Institute features $60,000 in equipment donated by Hewlett-Packard Co. The 17-year-old institute helps more than 3,000 adults and children each year.

“Young people need to be guided,” Johnson told the Lansing State Journal for a May 16 story. “They need to be touched. They need to know someone cares about them. They have that here.”

Despite the rain and cold, about 300 people stood outside to hear Johnson speak and honor his contribution to the community he grew up in.

Johnson led his Everett High School basketball team to the state championship in 1977 and Michigan State University to the NCAA title in 1979 before enjoying a successful career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s one of the most wonderful things to happen since Magic was on the basketball court,” Lansing resident Claudine Walker said about the center.

Ten-year-old Kris Pratt wasted no time exploring one of the new computers.

“They’ve got a whole bunch of stuff kids can use,” the youngster said, already thinking of the possibilities. “If you have to write an essay, you don’t have to use a pencil and write it down.”

The center’s offerings include 20 computers, printers, digital cameras, and a digital projector. It will be open to the public except when in use by a special class or session.

The center’s goal is to provide opportunities for people who don’t have access to the internet or aren’t computer savvy. Particularly at risk are certain minority groups, the elderly, and people with disabilities, program personnel explained.

“The gap continues to exist and is growing in the area of technology,” said Barbara Roberts Mason, the founder of the Black Child and Family Institute. “We have to eliminate that gap. It should not exist.”

The centers are part of a partnership between HP and the Magic Johnson Foundation. Five more are planned, including centers scheduled to open in Cleveland and Baltimore. Locations for the other three will be announced later.

Links:

Magic Johnson Foundation
http://www.magicjohnson.org

Hewlett-Packard Co.
http://www.hp.com

Black Child and Family Institute
http://www.lcc.edu/ece/location/ingham/black_child.htm