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BACK TO SCHOOL, READY TO SUCCEED! Closing the education gap to give every kid a shot at a great future

IN THIS ISSUE Trauma’s Toxic Toll on Youth Small-Town Club Cultivates Big-Time Support Sparking Interest in STEM WWW.BGCA.ORG/CONNECTIONS



connections vol . 35 , no. 2

KELLY GAINES Editor in Chief JOHN COLLINS Managing Editor MICHELLE M cQUISTON Associate Editor BGCA CREATIVE SERVICES Design and Layout

CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE As one who had the good fortune to attend college, then apply what I learned there to a successful business career, I’m a firm believer in the power of education. Nonetheless, the value we once placed on schooling in this country seems to have diminished. Each year, for example, 1 in 5 students fail to graduate from high school on time. That is why I also believe in Boys & Girls Clubs. Because Clubs get results. They provide kids with guidance and resources to realize their full potential – as the numbers below bear out. Of the more than 87,000 Boys & Girls Club members in grades 5-12 who are represented in our 2014 National Youth Outcomes data, we know that: • 78 percent are on track to graduate from high school on time; • 83 percent who joined a Club college- or career-prep program later applied to a post-secondary education institution; compared to 62 percent who didn’t partake in such a program; and • 79 percent who participated in a Boys & Girls Club money management program applied for financial aid; compared to 66 percent who didn’t participate in this type of program. Earning a high school diploma is clearly an important piece of the educational journey. But it is not enough, on its own, to build a great future. We have to recognize this and make sure young people understand that continuing their education at a vocational school or a 2- or 4-year college is the best route to longterm success. We owe it to the youth we serve to ensure they have the support, skills and confidence they need to one day depart their Boys & Girls Club ready and able to succeed. I have no doubt that every one of you who comprise the Boys & Girls Club Movement is up to this challenge. And that one day, a new generation of leaders and innovators will look back with gratitude at their Club Experience and the essential role it played in achieving their great future.

Connections is published by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It is distributed without charge to member Clubs of Boys & Girls Clubs of America as a service of their memberships. Articles or article ideas should be submitted to the Editor, Connections, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 1275 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30309. Use or return of material cannot be guaranteed and no remuneration can be made. Opinions expressed by contributing authors do not necessarily reflect policies of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Copyright ©2015 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Job No. 2739-15 1SSN:0272-6513


BGCA Board of Governors

2 Equal Opportunity Education Reaching the kids who fall on the wrong side of the achievement gap

6 A Season for Learning How Clubs use the Summer Brain Gain program to keep kids’ academic skills sharp

8 Sparking Interest in STEM Preparing Club youth for the burgeoning tech-based economy Page 6

12 Small-Town Club Cultivates Big-time Support A rural Boys & Girls Club on the brink of closure turns to its community … and turns things around



COLUMNS 10 President’s Report BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark

14 Child and Club Safety How chronic violence, poverty and related social conditions are damaging developing brains and bodies Page 8

16 View from the Potomac Academic Success and Government Relations

ON THE COVER Academic Success is one of the three key outcome areas (along with Good Character and Citizenship and Healthy Lifestyles) where Boys & Girls Clubs focus their efforts to ensure youth develop into well-rounded individuals with a plan for the future.

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W W W. B G C A . O R G / C O N N E C T I O N S

HSBC is an active supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s mission and its Academic Success pillar. As part of a three-year partnership, HSBC is sponsoring several local Boys & Girls Clubs to enable them to create strategic plans to expand and enhance Academic Success programming, including the areas of summer learning, STEM, career exploration and the arts. BGCA is grateful to HSBC for its generous support.



Academic Success

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EDUCATION Reaching kids on the wrong side of the achievement gap By John Collins


s we head into the new school year, we do so with a renewed sense of hope. According to Department of Education data, more American students are graduating from high school than ever before. For the 2012-13 school year, the national high school graduation rate was a record 81 percent. That’s up from 80 percent in 2011-12 and 79 percent in 2010-11. Indeed, the 2015 update to “Building a Grad Nation” – the respected annual report produced by America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Alliance for Excellent Education – states the country is on pace for a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020. Still, some groups of young people continue to lag behind, including African-American and Latino teens. Some 71 percent of African-American students and 75 percent of Latino students graduated on time in 2013. (Slightly more than half of all Boys & Girls Club members are African-American or Latino.) In addition, the graduation rate for teens from low-income families is eight percentage points lower than the overall national graduation rate. So, yes, there is cause for optimism. Now, we need to focus on reaching youth who are not experiencing these gains. Boys & Girls Clubs are uniquely positioned to serve kids who fall on the wrong side of the achievement gap and to make sure they “The middle-school years are a critical phase of receive the same opportunities academic development. It’s a time when students to achieve long-term success.

can bridge achievement gaps and enter high school prepared for academic success. Conversely, gaps can expand, leaving incoming freshmen without basic skills they need to do well in school.”

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THE STATE OF CLUB KIDS Our shared objective as Boys & Girls Club professionals is to help all members stay in school and succeed. We try to help our kids resolve concerns or difficulties they may have with schoolwork, graduate from high school on time and enroll in college. Club programming, such as homework help, tutoring and college prep emphasize the importance of education and enable children and teens to succeed in school. To help us better understand the extent to which Club members are on track to graduate from high school on time, BGCA developed an on-track indicator that uses the following data collected through our National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI) survey of Club youth: • Truancy – Chronic absenteeism negatively affects student achievement in all grades. • Grades – Students who perform poorly in school are at much higher risk to not graduate. • Expectations – A student’s belief about what he or she can attain academically may predict actual success. • Grade Retention – Being left back at any time puts a student at risk of not graduating.

9TH GRADE CLUB MEMBERS grade. The middle-school years are when many students become increasingly disengaged from school, which is frequently reflected in absenteeism, failing grades or behavior issues. As we know, it’s much easier to help a middle-school student gain the skills to do well in school, than it is to get a high school student back on track. There is a significant difference in the percentage of Club members on track to graduate between sixth and ninth grades, reflecting the trend seen in national research. Among sixth-grade Club members, 80 percent are on track to graduate on time, including about 19 percent at some risk. Among ninth-grade Club members, 74 percent are on track; of those, 24 percent are on track but with some risk. The middle-school years are a critical phase of academic development. It’s a time when students can bridge achievement gaps and enter high school prepared for academic success. Conversely, gaps can expand, leaving incoming freshmen without basic skills they need to do well in school. Worryingly, the National Center for Education Statistics in its latest “National Assessment of Educational Progress” reported that 2 out of 3 eighth-graders lack reading proficiency and foundational skills needed to succeed in higher-order high school math courses.



After parsing the above data of some 87,000 Club members in grades five to 12, the on-track indicator found 78 percent were on track to graduate high school on time. Of these, about 21 percent were on track but with some risk. Research shows, however, that the sixth- and ninth-grade years are crucial transitions in young people’s educational journeys.

Our nation’s economic and societal strength is increasingly dependent on a well-educated, tech-savvy workforce. High school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, arrested or incarcerated, and use public assistance subsidies and public health at much higher rates. The estimated average lifetime economic benefit to society for high school graduates is $209,100 more than for non-graduates, according to a 2007 study by the Center for Cost-Benefit Studies for Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Accordingly, BGCA is using our on-track indicator to pay close attention to Club members’ performance in sixth and ninth 4 CONNECTIONS


Academic Success

Realistically, a high school diploma is the bare minimum one needs in today’s marketplace. For greater professional success and income, a college degree is clearly needed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014, for example, that young adults with bachelor’s degrees earn more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma – and nearly 60 percent more than those with a high school diploma.

• 79 percent who participated in a Club money management program reported applying for financial aid or scholarships; compared to 66 percent who did not take part in such a program.

• 65 percent of seniors reported applying to a 4-year college

Our Movement will continue to invest in kids to ensure they graduate from high school on time, ready to pursue a postsecondary education or career. Toward that end, BGCA will keep working with Clubs and school districts to implement early literacy programs. We’ll expand the reach of Summer Brain Gain, our learning program that reached 110,000 kids at some 1,300 Clubs this summer. We’ll continue to pursue innovative partnerships like our agreement with the College Board and Khan Academy that will give Club teens access to free online practice tools for the SAT college admission test – and enable Club members who receive free or reduced lunch to take the SAT at no cost.

• 83 percent who took part in a Club college or career prep program told us they applied to trade school or a 2- or 4-year college; compared to 66 percent who were not in such a program.

By continuing to work together, the Boys & Girls Club Movement will continue to close the educational opportunity gap in our country, giving every kid the opportunity to achieve a great future.

A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE The good news is that Boys & Girls Clubs are making a difference. For the 2014 National Outcomes Survey of Club members, we included questions about college preparation activities for the first time. Roughly 2,000 juniors and 1,600 seniors responded. Among the highlights:


The research is clear: students who miss many days of school are at high risk of dropping out. Research also suggests, however, that quality out-of-schooltime programming can help mitigate factors that put young people at risk of dropping out, especially chronic absenteeism. A recent study confirms the influence Boys & Girls Clubs have keeping youth on track to graduate. The result of a partnership between the Connecticut Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Connecticut Department of Education and The Charter Oak Group consulting firm, the study looked at 6,600 Club members in the state and found they were 60 percent less likely to be chronically absent compared to other students. For the 2013-14 school year, 11 percent of overall students in grades K-12 were chronically absent; compared to 7 percent of Club members. (For the purposes of the study, students who missed over 10 percent of school days during the 201314 school year were labeled chronically absent.) Members who attended a Club frequently also had lower rates of suspensions and expulsions than their peers. Only 4 percent of Club members experienced these serious forms of discipline compared to 7.5 percent of their peers.

Elizabeth Fowlkes, Vice President of Planning & Measurement for BGCA, said data is key in determining who is on track to graduate, especially during the crucial middle-school years when the likelihood a child will graduate from high school drops precipitously. “We can’t afford to wait until a kid is 18 to determine if they’re on track to graduate,” said Fowlkes. “We need to stop problems early.” Executive Director Don Maleto of the Connecticut Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs said the impetus for the study was a desire to be more data-driven to better demonstrate the value of the Club Experience to interested constituencies. Maleto plans to share the data with state elected officials, as well as donors. “I encourage every State Alliance to get behind the effort to articulate the impact of Boys & Girls Clubs in their state,” Maleto said. Information gleaned from the study not only helps the Connecticut Alliance show Boys & Girls Clubs’ impact at the state level, it also gives local Clubs data that proves the effectiveness of their programs. The Connecticut Alliance and its partners intend to conduct the study annually to refine the process and collect better data. Nathan Cain is a writer/editor for BGCA.

For more information, please visit / Programs


A Season for Learning



nyone who works with underserved youth knows the challenges summer vacation can present, no matter how much the kids have been looking forward to it.

While Club staff attend to the physical needs of children, like feeding the hungry child who doesn’t get school-provided meals during the summer, the long-term nourishment needs of the mind must be attended to as well. Even the most diligent students may lose academic ground during the summer if they are not afforded the opportunity to keep skills they learned in school sharp. Summer learning loss is particularly acute for youth from disadvantaged circumstances. Studies have shown that lowincome youth lose over two months of reading skills during the summer, while their middle-class peers show slight gains. This is on top of two months’ worth of math skills that youth in general tend to lose. Just as lessons build on one another, these losses quickly accumulate, too. By the end of fifth grade, the reading gap between low-income youth and their more affluent peers has widened to nearly three grade equivalents, a chasm that can swallow whole a young person’s enjoyment of learning. Unequal access to summer learning opportunities accounts for more than half of the achievement gap between lowerand higher-income youth. To close this gap, and bring



Academic Success

summer learning opportunities to youth who need us most, Boys & Girls Clubs of America created Summer Brain Gain, with the support of sponsor Disney.

Promising Results

Summer Brain Gain is a program Clubs can use to stop summer learning loss in its tracks. Piloted in 2013, it is designed to gets kids of all ages learning without realizing it. Third-party evaluations of Summer Brain Gain in 2013 and 2014 found participants had no overall learning loss – allowing those Club members to begin the school year roughly two months ahead of where they’d be otherwise. Participants also made gains in critical 21st century skills. Unlike typical summer school, week-long Summer Brain Gain modules – such as “Green Team,” “Wacky Weather Watch” and “Connect the Dots” – get kids involved in creative projects that strengthen their higher-order thinking, collaboration and other 21st century skills. The curriculum can be downloaded at no charge and integrates easily into a traditional summer Club schedule. For Clubs without the resources to run the full program, Summer Brain Gain: Read!, sponsored by Staples, is a 12-week program to improve participants’ reading skills. A new age-appropriate book is introduced every week, along with activities that make the story come alive.

In 2014, some 1,200 Clubs offered Summer Brain Gain. This year, around 1,300 Clubs participated. Clubs that offer the program see results. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley in Knoxville, middle-school participants increased their retention rates, exhibited stronger community building skills and teamwork, and fostered a love of reading. “There was increased enthusiasm for learning” among participants, Club Director Polly Johnson said, “in addition to a noticeable bond.” At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, Ohio, evaluation studies showed the program to be a resounding success, with 48 percent of participants making academic gains over the summer and an additional 38 percent experiencing no learning loss. “Our Club members loved the project-based learning,” said Club Director Rebecca Asmo. “It didn’t feel like a boring summer project to them. The kids could be active, change activities frequently, interact with their friends and expand on lessons over the course of the week.”

Continuous Improvement

For 2015, BGCA simplified Summer Brain Gain’s modules to make them easier to use, and made sure content for all

grade levels was aligned to Common Core standards. In addition, evaluators conducted a rigorous, randomized control trial of the elementary portion of Summer Brain Gain, a step that will allow BGCA to apply for evidencebased certification. That distinction, if conferred, will open up new potential funding sources for local Clubs that want to implement the program. For 2016, BGCA plans to continue to refine Summer Brain Gain to ensure it continues to resonate with both facilitators and youth. “Summer Brain Gain proves that summer learning can be rigorous and fun,” said Asmo. “It is our duty to help kids and families understand this, so they can more easily travel the path to a great future.” The Summer Brain Gain program is a great way to help kids see that discovery and making friends can and should be a part of any great vacation. And when school resumes, they will be ready to pick up where they left off on their journey to academic success.

To find out how to run Summer Brain Gain at your Club in 2016, visit the Summer Brain Gain section on or contact the program team at

For more information, please visit / Programs





obs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are growing nearly twice as fast as other fields, presenting young people with a huge opportunity. If only they knew it. In 2013, only 23 percent of high school seniors who took the ACT college entrance exam reported interest in STEM majors and fields. In addition, only half the students who pursue degrees in STEM fields graduate. As a result, there will be a shortage of 1 million STEM graduates needed by U.S. industries over the next decade, according to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Women and minorities are especially underrepresented in these fields. If the looming gap is to be filled, it is critical that more students from these groups find their way into STEM careers. Research has shown that while 40 percent of male high school students have an interest in STEM careers, only 15 percent of female high school students express an interest. Many minority youth may also aspire to such careers, but research shows that they are often insufficiently prepared to pursue studies in these areas. The achievement gap starts as early as the fourth grade, where research has found 30 percent of African-American, Latino and Native youth tested below basic proficiency in math, compared to 8 percent of Asian-American and 9 percent of Caucasian fourth-graders.*

LEADING THE WAY Boys & Girls Clubs of America is taking the lead to provide youth with the necessary skills and confidence to succeed in STEM fields. At the 2014 Great Think, BGCA laid out a longterm strategy to inspire underrepresented youth to pursue STEM interests and acquire skills. Scientists, engineers, business leaders and other experts discussed the STEM crisis at the headquarters of information technology firm Oracle in Redwood, California. “We have the opportunity and challenge of helping youth see STEM in their everyday activities,” said Tina Shah, Senior Director of STEM & Educational Foundations for BGCA. “For example, we could transform a game of basketball into a relationship involving statistics, angles, physics or percentages.


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* Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education, 2012

STEM SUPPORT “Advancing Underrepresented Youth in STEM During Out-of-School Time” My.Future is a digital media education platform developed by BGCA with Comcast/NBC Universal that teach youth technology skills with activities to accommodate all skill levels and budgets. Learn more at Engage teens and tweens in the “science of everyday” with DIY STEM 2.0. The 10-week program features stand-alone experiments related to energy, electricity, engineering and chemistry.

We must work with Clubs to design and implement programs with the ideology and belief that every Club kid has the innate ability to think like an inventor, scientist, engineer or coder.”

STEM + ARTS = STEAM Boys & Girls Clubs are at the forefront of innovative efforts to engage kids in STEM education during out-of-school-time by integrating it with the arts – or STEAM. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, D.C., kids have opportunities to do hands-on projects linking STEM concepts with other subjects. Tony Small is the Regional Artistic and STEAM Director for the organization. He believes that adding arts and sports to STEM is a way to demystify difficult subjects. Small has also forged a strong partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, keeping a keen eye toward adhering to best practices and implementing their curricula. “Science is a natural extension of life,” Small said. “We, as educators, have been trained to teach in silos. But there are natural connections between art and science we are not aware of. At our Boys & Girls Club, we want to reinforce a well-rounded program of STEM, sports and arts.” Lemond Brown, STEAM Engineer and Technology Manager for the Greater Washington Club, teaches STEAM concepts using a “flipped classroom” model that replaces the traditional

classroom lecture and doing projects outside class. Instead, students watch lectures and read online on their own; then they engage in hands-on activities together, putting what they learn into action with the guidance of instructors. Support from a local funder enabled the organization to acquire 50 iPad tablets. This allows facilitators to hold class anywhere and apply STEM concepts to any subject. For example, youth have used iPads to learn about the physics of sports inside the gymnasium. They even played music with the tablets at the Kennedy Center as part of “ENDANGERED: The Eco Musical,” a piece commissioned for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington by the local nonprofit Friends of the National Zoo. Taking the lessons out of the classroom lets youth see the connection between science and other subjects. It also gives them permission to take chances, something they may be reluctant to do in school. “One of the benefits of out-of-school time STEM creative space is that youth are free to experiment,” said Small. “They are not being tested and are relieved of pressure to produce a right or wrong answer.” For more information on STEM initiatives, contact Tina Shah, Senior Director of STEM & Educational Foundations for BGCA, at

For more information, please visit / Programs


columns President’s Report



oys & Girls Clubs do so many things for young people. Like providing a safe, structured environment during the out-of-school hours so kids can spend that time productively and parents/caregivers can be assured their kids are in good hands while they work to support their families. Clubs also give kids a place to have fun, learn teamwork, get physically fit, gain valuable social and life skills and so much more. Clubs are about addressing the holistic needs of youth to prepare them for a great future. Given the wide-reaching programs and activities Clubs offer, how do you sum up the breadth and scope of Boys & Girls Clubs’ impact on America’s youth? When you think about it, it’s all about access to experiences and opportunities. Clubs provide access to life-changing activities and experiences to youth who might otherwise never have those opportunities. And in today’s world, access is paramount. Think about it: kids today don’t know a world without Facebook and Google. In terms of “population,” in fact, Facebook is now the largest nation in the world. Kids have more ability to communicate than ever. At the same time, we’re looking at the first generation that probably won’t do as well as their parents. Where does that leave us? At Boys & Girls Clubs, it’s our job to keep up with the times, so that we can continue to offer the life-changing impact we have been providing for 155 years. Key to that is providing our members with more access, opportunities and great futures. That’s what we need to do to remain relevant and contemporary in kids’ lives.



Academic Success

TEENS: THE POPULATION WE NEED TO REACH Our vision is simple: We want to assure that all kids are on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and leading a healthy lifestyle. This issue of Connections is focused on the first outcome in our vision statement – Academic Success, one of the three outcome focuses of the Formula for Impact. Make no mistake about it: having a high school diploma is not the be all and end all of a young person’s success. But it is foundational to that success. At the very least, we must commit to enabling all Club youth to graduate from high school on time, with a plan for their future. Research shows that of freshmen who miss 10-14 days in a semester, just 41 percent graduate on time. This is an area where we can have a real influence. We can help kids stay in school. And we know that if they stay in school, they’ll graduate. But to do that, we need to have teens in our Clubs. It starts with elementary school. If they stop coming to the Club after the early years, we lose the chance to help them during the critical middle-school years. Why are teens so important? The research is crystal clear. Two things matter in ninth grade – attendance and grades. The second semester of ninth grade is a make-or-break time for students.If a teen is on track to graduate on time by the end of their freshman year, they are very likely to do just that.

President’s Report


Research shows that 86 percent of students with a C+ average at the end of ninth grade graduated from high school on time. Students with at least a B average as a freshman did even better, with 95 percent of them going on to graduate on time. So the good news is that we know we can have life-changing impact on teens. The challenge is that our teen population has declined since 2007. If you were with us at the National Conference in Chicago, you heard a lot about the need to significantly increase our teen membership. Whether you were there or not, you will definitely hear much more on this in the coming months. In fact, I urge you to check out the back cover of this issue for information about where to find teen-serving strategies and resources.

A YEAR-ROUND EFFORT As Clubs transition from summer programming – including the 1,300 Clubs that implemented our summer learning loss prevention program, Summer Brain Gain, this year – to school-year programming, it’s important to keep in mind that learning knows no season. Every time a kid is in a Club is an opportunity to enhance their educational foundation. That’s the magic of Boys & Girls Clubs – making learning fun. Even as times change, some things remain fundamental. A solid education. A wellrounded view of community, country and the world. Health in mind, body and spirit. The impetus to give back. These qualities are at the heart of our mission and our work, as well as the foundation of our youth development framework. Yes, we must evolve and remain relevant to kids. That’s why we’re embarking on such efforts as digitizing youth development and making sure that we meet kids where they are technologically. These advances are crucial and important, but mere enhancements to the tried-and-true Boys & Girls Club formula – caring adults providing kids in need with access to experiences and opportunities. Thank you for all you do each and every day to provide the youth you serve with every chance possible to have the great futures they so deserve.

For more information, please visit / Programs


Small-Town Club Cultivates Big-Time Support By Marc Dosogne

This is the story of how a Boys & Girls Club in the small rural community of Berlin, Wisconsin, strategically grew its board, staff and community influence from humble beginnings to become a leading force in serving young people. We share this story because we believe it can be replicated in other communities by a local board with passion, vision and determination to overcome obstacles and make dreams come true.

Director Jason Presto officially opened the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area’s new facility during a June ribbon-cutting ceremony. Among those looking on was BGCA’s Jim Clark, to the left of Jason.



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n June 25, 2015, the Boys & Girls Club of the TriCounty Area, a branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh, opened the doors of its new 18,500-squarefoot facility. It is the product of a successful $6 million campaign, $2 million of which was placed in a trust to perpetually benefit Club operations. Some 150-200 kids are expected to attend the new Club every day. It’s also envisioned as a powerhouse for attracting community activities. But such success wasn’t always the case.

The organization’s story begins in 1995. Back then, kids in this small agricultural community had little to do after school. The local school district administrator and some residents decided a Boys & Girls Club could help fill that void. The resulting Berlin Boys & Girls Club was established as part of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh, about 20 miles away. For 19 years, the Berlin Club operated in a 90-year-old elementary school provided by the school district. In its early days, the board consisted of a handful of citizens who cared about kids. But ultimately, they lacked the planning and fundraising skills needed to build a successful organization. The Club was virtually dependent on a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant provided through the school district. However, it was quickly burning through funds and had no plan on how to raise more. Other notable problems to tackle included continual turnover of board and staff members, and an odious view among some locals that the Club was only “good enough for the poor kids.”

ONE LAST SHOT In 2003, organization leadership decided to give the Club one more year to succeed. They would challenge the community to assemble a capable board, develop a strategic vision, and create a safe, stable place where decent Boys & Girls Club programming could take place. Board members Steve Sondalle and Craig Johnson accepted that challenge, and a new director was hired. Board and staff members from the Oshkosh Club lent their expertise on fundraising techniques, program development and administration. Board members attended board meetings in Oshkosh to understand

how they should be structured and better connected to the values and standards of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

TEAMWORK LAYS FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS Through the cooperative efforts of board members and Club staff, a stronger, more systematized Boys & Girls Club took shape. The board took ownership for recruiting new board members and seeking private support. Volunteers stepped up to lead successful fundraisers and formed an annual campaign committee. Staff gave Club tours to prospective supporters, developed better programming, and kept the facility clean and organized. Program hours were expanded and teen services were established. Before long, average daily attendance and membership were rapidly increasing. Board members spoke with pride of the Club’s impact on children and the community. Consistently positive buzz about the Club formed and support began to build. People wrote checks of support, expressed interest in joining the board and supported fundraising events. In 2007, the Berlin Club changed its name to the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area to better reflect the market it served. In due course, the board developed a vision to build a new Club. There was both excitement and apprehension about raising funds in such a small community. In 2013, a small team of board leaders created a game plan to build a new Club. A prominent local family’s lead donation provided energy that made people believe in the project. As the leadership team learned to make a convincing case for a new facility and attested to their personal commitment as board members, they secured major gifts from several individuals and businesses. Within two years, with almost all funding pledged, ground was broken for the new Club. When you focus strategically, develop a committed board and staff, and honor the mission, leadership gifts for projects like this can materialize. Even in a small community like Berlin. For more information about this project, contact CEO Marc Dosogne of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh at or Branch Director Jason Presto of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area at

For more information, please visit / Programs





By Mitru Ciarlante


here is a wave rippling across this nation. A wave of youth making noise, getting attention and taking a stand on community issues affecting them: racial justice, immigration, gun violence, drug abuse. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, a group of teenage members have expressed themselves by making the documentary film, “Can You Hear Us Now?” Shot over the course of one year, the documentary is a powerful and revealing examination of violence in their community: why it happens, its impact on neighborhoods, and the traumatic effect that everyday life experiences with poverty, abuse, neglect, crime and violence have on kids. “Can You Hear Us Now?” also poses a timely question. It’s one that youth development and trauma experts say we’d all better start reflecting on when it comes to young people. Indeed, kids need platforms to tell their stories, express their feelings, voice their ideas, and contribute to changes they want – and need – in their communities and lives.

WHAT TRAUMA IS Damage from physical and emotional injuries or exposure to violence can be called trauma; incidents can be called traumatic events. Many young people also live amid temporary or ongoing adverse conditions, such as racism, gender discrimination, bias, poverty and exposure to drug and alcohol abuse. These experiences can affect or even interrupt healthy development. When a young person does not feel safe, he or she can’t grow and learn to their full potential. Simply put, when youth react with fear, horror and/or helplessness, the extreme stress is toxic to their developing brains and bodies, and overwhelms their ability to cope. The effects can be long-lasting. Several major research studies have shown that physical and psychological harm caused by adverse experiences can have lasting negative effects on youth success in academics, relationships, healthy lifestyles, identity development and self-esteem, and conduct. When it comes to learning, youth who have p

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Child & Club Safety

exposure to violence have been shown to have lower grade point averages, more negative remarks in their cumulative records, and more reported absences from school. They may also have increased difficulty concentrating and learning at school. These findings heighten the importance of providing safe out-of-school-time settings, which offer youth sanctuary, respite and a place to build resilience. To overcome adverse experiences and conditions, young people need hope. And hope is generated when youth are empowered to take positive action to improve their lives and communities. It’s what we do at Boys & Girls Clubs. We help kids build confidence, establish high expectations, and let them know that we can see their strengths and true, core selves – rather than judge them only on visible behaviors. These are some of the elements of trauma-informed youth settings, a framework for working with youth in ways that facilitate their support, recovery and resiliency after exposure to adverse experiences and trauma.

TRAUMA-INFORMED CLUBS A trauma-informed child- and family-service system is one that recognizes and responds to the impact of traumatic stress on children, caregivers and staff. Trauma awareness is built-in across knowledge and skill development, organizational culture, practices and policies. Staff work collaboratively to facilitate and support the recovery and resiliency of traumatized youth and families. Boys & Girls Clubs in Albany, N.Y., Boston, Chicago, Buffalo, N.Y., Kalamazoo, Mich., Tarpon Springs, Fla., Warwick, R.I. and many other communities have integrated trauma-informed practices to provide youth with relevant and meaningful programs and approaches that take into account their lived experiences. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, Director of Program Impact and Outcomes Keisha Farmer-Smith, Ph. D., trains staff members to approach problem behaviors from the perspective of, “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?”


Sessions on child trauma topics will be offered during the 2015 BGCA Regional Leadership Conferences. You can also visit the website of BGCA partner The National Child Traumatic Stress Network at for free resources and training opportunities. Mitru Ciarlante is a director within BGCA’s Child & Club Safety Department.

THE CONFLICT CYCLE Past Past Experiences/ EExp xpeeriences/ riences/ Trauma Trauma

Youth Youth Beliefs Beliefs and and Self-Understanding Self-U Understanding

Stressful Stressful Incident Incident Adult Adult Peer Peer Reactions Reactions

Youth Youth Thoughts/Feelings Thoughts/Feelings Observable Obserrva vabllee Behavior/ Beehhaavvio B iorr/ / Conflict Conflict Positive Positive Belief Belief in in Self Self and and Trust Trust

“CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?” Watch the long-form trailer for “Can You Hear Us Now?” at or scan the QR code below.

“Staff use the ‘conflict cycle’ (see graphic) as a tool for understanding and repairing incidents that disrupt the Club environment,” said Farmer-Smith. “In this non-blaming approach, we work together to get at the root causes of disruption for the involved and affected youth. This enables us to repair the immediate situation, deescalate a problem and mend relationships. It also creates an opportunity to identify and provide support for past traumatic or difficult experiences that may be affecting [their] emotions and behaviors.” It is critical that we really listen to our young people. When we see youth for who they really are, rather than the behaviors they may display to hide their pain, they rise to be their best selves. For more information, please visit / Programs


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“What do Boys & Girls Clubs have to do with academic success? You aren’t a school!” We’ve heard that sentiment expressed by members of Congress before. Hopefully, we’ve heard it for the last time. Your Government Relations team’s work on key portions of the reauthorization of the National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) gave us many opportunities to meet with senators and representatives and explain the act is not only about in-school time. It also includes important programs for youth covering out-of-school time – when Boys & Girls Clubs operate – and contributes directly to young people’s academic success. ESEA is administered by the Department of Education, which offers numerous grant programs used by Clubs to promote academic success. These grants totaled over $60 million for fiscal year 2013 (the most recent year available), including over $54 million from 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants. As the single largest grant program funding Clubs around the country, 21st CCLC grants helped Clubs provide over 158,000 kids with quality programs during the out-of-school hours in fiscal year 2013.

DEFENDING YOUR PROGRAM Because so many Clubs and youth depend on it, defending the 21st CCLC program to Congress is important. To defend a program, Government Relations develops an engagement strategy. This includes identifying influencers and stakeholders – other BGCA departments, Clubs, organizations with similar interests – to determine independent and cooperative strategies.


Academic Success

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Next, we meet with influencers and stakeholders to assess issues and time frames. Clubs can play an important role by engaging with their representatives at the right time. Local success stories contribute a great deal to influencers’ understanding of how a given program really impacts a community. As we watch an issue progress in Congress, we look for additional opportunities to tell our Clubs’ stories, offer alternatives or look for compromises that can work to our benefit. Of course, it isn’t over until it’s over. Much of the work on every issue occurs during phone calls, quick meetings, and responses that must happen in near real-time. Anyone who works with kids knows that support for academic subjects alone does not create academic success. It can also be enhanced by meeting basic needs, such as providing nutritious meals and snacks, and ensuring relationships with caring adults who can provide guidance and answer questions outside of a school setting. Government Relations works to defend, advocate for and enhance priority government funding streams that directly impact these other factors that help youth succeed. For instance, through Department of Agriculture meal and snack programs, Clubs have served nearly 28 million meals and over 44 million snacks to Club youth free of charge. Keeping hungry kids fed contributes to their academic success. Government Relations works hard to ensure Congress and the USDA understand the importance of these programs as we advocate for higher snack reimbursements and funding for a third daily meal.


is to youth in their communities. Many Club leaders also participated in direct meetings with their Congressional representatives. Their poignant stories keenly illustrated the difference that a youth mentoring program can make in children’s lives. The Office of Government Relations does not develop or run the programs Clubs use. However, we inform other BGCA departments of ways to make our programs more attractive to government-sponsored grants and programs, prepare Clubs to better position themselves to gain government funding, and listen for opportunities BGCA and Clubs can capitalize on. With over 25 percent of Club funding – onethird of a billion dollars – coming from government programs, Government Relations is dedicated to defending, advocating for, and enhancing Club programs, including those with direct bearing on academic success. Kevin McCartney is Senior Vice President of Government Relations for BGCA.

YOUTH MENTORING Another area that has an impact on academic success is mentoring. The Department of Justice’s Youth Mentoring Program contributed $25 million this year to BGCA and Clubs to provide at-risk youth with adult mentors. These are often kids who also have difficulty achieving academic success. Clubs provide structured programs that enhance the well-being of program participants, mitigating some of the risks kids face when it comes to doing well in school. Government Relations works closely with Congress and the Department of Justice to ensure Clubs’ needs and interests are taken into account. Not long ago, nearly 600 Clubs sent letters to the U.S. Attorney General about how important the Youth Mentoring Program

Have a story you’d like to share about how grant funds helped promote Academic Success at your Club? Please contact Sage Learn, director of policy and advocacy, at

For more information, please visit / Programs



TEENS! Too many teenagers are saying goodbye to their Boys & Girls Club when they most need its support and guidance. It’s time for Boys & Girls Club professionals, leaders and volunteers to stand together to retain, recruit and impact more teenagers.

join the More Teen s, More Often Teen Engagement & Advocacy Initiative. Because we know when teens attend the Club, it has a dramatic impact on their lives.

Connections Summer 2015  
Connections Summer 2015  

In this issue . . . Equal Opportunity Education A Season for Learning Sparking Interest in STEM Small-Town Club Cultivates B...