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Operation Breakthrough to break ground on 'Ignition Lab'

Lab will serve students ages 14 to 18
operation breakthrough ignition lab.jpg
Posted at 4:40 PM, May 20, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An unlikely old muffler shop is transforming into a space to springboard Kansas City teenagers to a brighter future.

Operation Breakthrough is extending its after-school STEM programming to high schoolers beginning this fall with help from the Eighty-Seven and Running Foundation.

The Ignition Lab will serve kids ages 14 to 18 who have aged out of the organization’s programs for younger children.

Students will be able to build upon coding, circuitry, culinary arts, construction and design, digital media, robotics, visual art and other skills they learned in Operation Breakthrough’s MakerCity and MakerSpace programs.

The Ignition Lab will also prepare teens for life after school, with focuses on workforce development, entrepreneurship and other pathways.

“We are excited to close the opportunity gap in STEM. Helping our children explore a variety of different fields including computer science, automotive and engineering, manufacturing, electronics and multimedia will not only help them figure out what they are passionate about but create opportunities to build a strong portfolio of client work, certifications and capstone projects. I know of no other program that will provide this range of opportunities for our high school children,” said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.

Operation Breakthrough has been at the heart of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s charity work.

Through his foundation, Eighty-Seven and Running, Kelce bought the old muffler shop where Ignition Lab will be housed.

In fact, Operation Breakthrough says it was his first purchase after he signed a $57 million contract extension with the team.

“In signing on for six more years with the Chiefs, I’m recommitting myself to the work I have left to do off the field as well. Kids I danced and ate pizza with at OB a few years ago are now teenagers navigating a world that doesn’t always have their back,” Kelce said in a news release.

Operation Breakthrough serves more than 700 Kansas City children while their parents either work or attend school, providing nutritious meals, learning, health and dental care, therapy and more.

Right now, the children range in age from infants to 14.

Of those, around 20% are experiencing homelessness and more than 70% of their families are living on less than $12,000 a year.

A large number of them (around 65%) have seen violence by age 5.

Operation Breakthrough helps children succeed at a young age.

Nationwide, fewer than 50% of 5-year-olds experiencing poverty test “school ready.”

More than 90% of Operation Breakthrough’s 5-year-olds are school ready despite their circumstances.

The Ignition Lab allows Operation Breakthrough to continue its services for teens older than 14.

“The vision is to give them a safe haven where they can continue to find role models, discover interests and develop skills once they age out of OB’s after-school program,” Kelce said. “Together with OB’s staff and supporters, we’ll create a co-working space where teens will have the support, resources and opportunity to explore careers in STEM, launch their own entrepreneurial ventures and gain real-world experience.”

The lab is set to open this fall.

During the day, while Operation Breakthrough students are at school, the lab will be used to enhance curriculum for other area high school students.

Organizers will break ground on the Ignition Lab at 3030 Troost Ave. on Monday.