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Park Slope Community Center Gets New Computer Lab

PARK SLOPE — Chastity Polanco, 19, is taking an important math placement exam this Thursday as she gears up for her freshman year of college, but she's not as stressed out about the test as she could be.

Polanco feels ready for the exam in part because she prepped with dozens of online quizzes at a new computer learning lab that opened recently at the nonprofit Good Shepherd Services on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in Park Slope.

Without the lab, "it would definitely be a little difficult for us to get through that (test)," Polanco said Monday at the official ribbon cutting for the new computer lab, which is outfitted with a dozen laptops, nine shiny new desktop computers, a printer, and a smart board, which is a type of digital chalkboard.

The learning lab was paid for with a $50,000 donation by Time Warner Cable, which agreed to build 40 such labs across the city under a 2011 franchise agreement with the city. Five of the labs are already open in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island; the one unveiled at Good Shepherd Services on Monday was the first in Brooklyn. Time Warner Cable plans to open the next computer learning lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, officials said Monday.

"This is a wake-up call for corporate America to realize they can't come to under-served communities just to get their money and leave," said State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz at Monday's ribbon cutting.

The city's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Commissioner Rahul N. Merchant, State Assemblyman James F. Brennan, City Councilman Brad Lander and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery were also on hand to celebrate the new computer center, which Lander said would help bridge the digital divide that still exists in low-income neighorhoods.

Good Shepherd Services works with young people across the city to help them acquire skills to be successful adults — including digital literacy, said Good Shepherd Services executive director Sr. Paulette LoMonaco. "We do a lot of work with young people who are on the margins," LoMonaco, said, referring to kids who's spent time in foster care or faced other challenges.

"With great community partners like Good Shepherd Services, we can make a difference," said Bill Tyson, Time Warner Cable's regional vice president of business operations. "We can truly stand behind our services, and equip this community center today so that the young people here can aquire the skills they need to take my job."