A $1.25 million grant brings STEM programming to Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens

(From left) Thomas Grech, Richard Khuzami, Richard Khuzami, Ebony Young, Carolyn Maloney, Costa Constantinides, Walter Sanchez, Jennifer White, Emanuel Kokinakis, Treasure Hodge, Peter Rose, Frank “Turtle” Raffaele at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens in Astoria, where a new state-of-the-art STEM lab is set to be built. (Photo courtesy of VBGCQ)

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ) announced on Monday, Jan. 10, that it received a generous donation from the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) to construct a state-of-the-art STEM lab at the Astoria Clubhouse and bring programming focused on climate and energy innovation.

This project will help the Astoria Boys & Girls Club serve even more children, going from 4,000 kids in the educational programs to more than 16,000. The new science labs are scheduled to open in 2026 and provide STEM programs for children from grades K through eighth grade.

CHPE is a state contracted project committed to delivering renewable power to New York. The CHPE project plays a crucial role in the state’s goal to decrease reliance on fossil fuels by 80% by 2030. This venture will link the Montreal area to Astoria through a high-voltage direct current submarine power cable carrying clean energy from Canada into New York City, which will be functional in 2025. This undertaking is being developed by Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI).

“It is proof that the developer of the Champlain Hudson Power Express project is here to stay, to be a good neighbor not just by reducing the fossil generation that has plagued our families for years, but by contributing to this exciting project that will provide opportunity to the children of Astoria for decades to come,” said Costa Constantinides, CEO of VBGCQ. “We are hopeful that others who come into our community to develop projects will see this as a catalyst for investment in our neighborhoods which is a win-win for everyone.”

Rendering of the STEM lab coming to the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens in Astoria. (Photo courtesy of VBGCQ)

Hydro-Québec President/CEO Sophie Brochu and TDI CEO Don Jessome said that their team is excited about its commitment to serving the local community.

“It’s our hope that the partnership in this 21st-century science lab will provide life-changing experiences and open career pathways in the clean economy for the youth living in Queens,”  Brochu and Jessome said.

The grant is the first ever to be awarded by the CHPE Community Engagement Fund, which supports capital projects in neighborhoods that will host the buried clean energy transmission line. The CHPE fund invests in projects geared toward education, science, the environment and social justice.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said he is thrilled that the VBGCQ in Astoria will receive such a major donation for the betterment of the community.

“The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens is already a vitally important institution in our borough — one with an even brighter future thanks to this critical allocation courtesy of Hydro-Quebec, TDI and the historic Champlain Hudson Power Express project,” Richards said. “The impact this funding will have on the education and overall future of our children is immeasurable. Queens is deeply grateful to our clean energy and community partners for securing this investment on behalf of our borough.”

The VBGCQ was established in 1955 and serves more than 4,000 children each year by providing a safe place to learn and play. Walter Sanchez, president of the board of directors of VBGCQ, said that he is confident this funding will help them serve more children than ever before.

“We are convinced that the state-of-the-art STEM lab this contribution enables us to build will help us to capture the passion of thousands of youth in the neighborhood,” Sanchez said. “With this lab, not only will the short-term goal of fulfilling the lives of our children be enhanced, but the future of energy in our region is obviously in good hands.”