A local nonprofit that has provided after school STEM activities since 2009 has opened a high-tech center for youth in Bethel with the help of several community partners.

The Center for Science Technology and Leadership Development has converted the town’s old ABC liquor store to become The Bethel Youth Activity Center, a 30-computer high-speed internet facility to serve area youth daily. Organizers are planning a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration on Friday.

“I am beyond thrilled to have such a facility in our community,” Bethel Mayor Gloristine Brown said in a news release. “Our youth are deserving of every opportunity to succeed and The Bethel Youth Activity Center will go a long way toward giving our youth a leg up on being successful students. I am also excited that this facility is available to our citizens with hi-speed internet and accompanying technology.”

The learning center is made possible by a collaboration with the Pitt County Alcohol Board in September, said CEO/Executive Director Garrie W. Moore. The ABC board vacated the building when it opened a new store at 254 Easy St. in north Greenville.

Friday’s ceremony will honor the ABC Board for its “visionary support of youth in Pitt County” and a plaque will be permanently placed in the building recognizing its contribution and support, Moore said.

The facility also is supported by a grant from NC Alliance of YMCA. Students can be at the center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for assistance with regular public school assignments and 3 p.m.-5 p.m. for tutoring and special activities. The center is equipped with technology through a donation of computers, tables and chairs by Suddenlink, Moore said.

“To that end, our classroom has been named Suddenlink Technology Classroom,” he said in the news release. “There is high-speed internet service connected to 30 computers available for use by students and the community.”

The activity center is open to all youth in the Pitt County School system, especially youth in Bethel and surrounding communities, Moore said.

Due to COVID-19, everyone must wear masks and maintain a safe social distance. Masks and hand sanitizer are available along with sneeze protectors. Occupancy is limited to 20-25 youth at a time. A separate room dedicated for counseling and mentoring is prepared to assist youth to work through their personal, school and community issues.

A host of activities will be offered beyond regular schoolwork and tutoring. Special STEM activities and programs will be offered along with parent homeschooling seminars, a medical academy and drone and summer camps. All students must register to participate and undergo standard COVID-19 screening.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Bethel Youth Activity Center. Suddenlink understands how important it is for our communities to be connected and we believe students and community members will use this technology for good,” said Bob Lillie, Regional Vice President, Suddenlink.

The Center for Science Technology and Leadership Development began at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church and has offered programming through the church and in the Bethel school since 2009. The organization incorporated as a 501©(3) nonprofit in 2013 and is supported by partners including Pitt County Schools, East Carolina University, Pitt Community College and many others.

The ribbon-cutting and open house begins at noon on Friday at the center, 7449 N. Main St., Bethel. The Pitt County Health Department also will offer free flu vaccines during the event.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.