25 Years of Impact: How the TGR Learning Lab opened doors and built success for underserved youth
As I look back on the 15 years since the TGR Learning Lab opened its doors to students and families in Anaheim, California, I am overcome with pride. Thousands of underserved students have walked through our doors into a safe space that has given them opportunities they might not have had otherwise. We’ve helped them find their passion and pursue it, experience innovation and foster creativity all while being supported by caring adults who have guided them on their journey.
The TGR Learning Lab opened in 2006, at a time when school budgets were being cut and the focus was solely on core curriculum. Hands-on science, field trips, extracurricular opportunities and experiences that allowed students to explore and wonder were limited. We spoke to kids in the community, heard their needs and went to work. At the TGR Learning Lab, students entered an environment and culture that they had never experienced before – a place that made them feel safe, presented learning in a way that felt new and exciting and gave them hope on their path to achieving their dreams.
When we piloted our programs, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was a term that was unknown to many schools and teachers. Students, especially those from underresourced communities, had limited access to technology. The classes offered focused on a variety of STEM-related career fields, which were, and still are, in high demand and relatively unheard of with the students we serve.
While our programs have evolved to remain cutting edge, our focus remains the same – provide engaging and hands-on experiences to students that open their minds and develop the skills necessary for future STEM-related careers. Over the years, I’ve connected with countless students who share with me why they continued to attend the Learning Lab. We show them how to connect their academic skills to the real world.
“I’ve witnessed many “a-ha” moments in the halls of the Learning Lab, seeing students come to life when they connect their passion to their purpose.”
While the work we were doing on the ground in Anaheim deeply enriches the lives of kids in the neighborhood, I’m most proud of the diversity of families and communities we’ve impacted around the country. Our work with children from military families holds a special place in my heart. For several years, we welcomed these children to our campus in Anaheim to not only explore various STEM-related careers but build relationships with other children their age and with similar life experiences. Our programs and the core philosophy of the TGR Learning Lab now thrives in several regions across the U.S., including the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Florida.
The work we’ve done in this building and beyond has impacted thousands of kids. For many of the students that walk through our doors, simply providing a system of support is life changing. As a lifelong educator and someone that has spent countless hours at the Learning Lab, I’ve seen firsthand that being able to shape the whole student is critical to their long-term success.
From the start, we made sure positive youth development was embedded in everything we did with our students. Watching them go through our programs and leave the Learning Lab with a strong positive identity, effective communication skills, the ability to self-advocate and a desire to give back to their community reaffirms just how all-encompassing and valuable our programs are.
The TGR Learning Lab will always be a safe place that fosters innovation and creativity while providing opportunities that open students’ eyes to fresh ideas and experiences. As we look forward, the TGR Learning Lab will continue to expand our offerings, providing access to new classes developed for emerging career fields, such as Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Media and Virtual and Augmented Reality. Students will continue to be given the means to discover who they want to become and the resources and mentorship to help them reach their personal and professional goals.
Building student success for 25 years.
This story is part of a series highlighting 25 years of impact through TGR Foundation programs.