02 Jun 2023
Fab Newport Celebrates a Decade of Inspiring Makers
Raneem Alsuwaidaini remembers the day she decided to spend her free time doing something unique. She headed to her neighborhood library, for a PVD Young Makers session. “I went on a Saturday and checked it out and I loved everything that they did. They use a lot of machines that you don’t get really get access to,” said The Met High School junior. “Usually at the library we use the heat press, the vinyl cutter, and the 3D printers.”
Since joining PVD Young Makers two years ago, Raneem says she’s discovered a lot about herself. “I took part in a big decision in my life. Since I got into PVD Young Makers I became interested in business. At The Met, I signed up for the entrepreneurship program. I think I now want to go to college for business,” Raneem said. “So many kids come here to be creative, because sometimes they don’t have their own space. They don’t have the resources. I think PVD Young Makers opens opportunities for young kids. Everyone should come and do a Saturday.”
POC met Raneem earlier this spring, as she helped Fab Newport celebrate 10 years of serving BIPOC youth. She warmly welcomed guests into the South Providence Community Library by making them name tags with a button maker. Her journey is one of the many success stories behind the program. Created in 2017 by Fab Newport, PVD Young Makers is a free city-wide network of makerspaces inside community libraries. The workshops are run by Fab Newport, in collaboration with the Providence Community Libraries, Providence Public Library, Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art and Young Voices. Since launching, the PVD Young Makers has had over 17,000 middle and high school students participate.
Supported by the Papitto Opportunity Connection, the non-profit’s work focuses on serving BIPOC youth in communities that traditionally have limited access to technology rich programming, with an emphasis on coding, design, and fabrication. A recent POC grant will help the organization hire more teen interns and increase their staff at libraries.
“It’s time to make, maybe flip, our values and focus on things like engagement or belonging over test scores. And I would promise you, if we shifted our values and focused on those things then traditional metrics would rise also” said Fab Newport’s Executive Director Steve Heath.
Positive Future Vision
Heath says their ultimate purpose is anchored in helping learners become competent, confident students who will fulfill their “positive future vision.” The targeted approach is now part of the mission of Fab Newport’s new entity: Fabx.
“So many of our youths have so many great ideas about what they want to do with their lives. But the question we need to ask ourselves as responsible adults is do they have the access to the resources, opportunities, and relationships to bring those visions to life?” Heath asked. “We want to get every young person involved in a set of trusting relationships so they can get connected to the resources, opportunities and relationships that will get them where they want to go.”
It’s the type of work the Director of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism says they want to find ways to expand. “Using artmaking as a pathway using creativity as a pathway for our young people to find themselves and thus find their purpose, that’s what this is all about,” said Joe Wilson Jr. “When we call ourselves the creative capital it’s not just about the vestibules, it’s not just about all the non-profit organizations that produce artwork in this town, it’s about a culture, an appreciation and understanding about the process of making, the process of encouraging young people to be creative, to use their imagination in unconventional ways.”