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2015 -16

REACHING THE SUMMIT National Youth of the Year Hits New Heights

IN THIS ISSUE Keystoners Race to Recruit Teens Partnership Helps Club Families in Need Creating a Culture of Safety WWW.BGCA.ORG/CONNECTIONS


WINTER 2015-16 PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA & FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA Honorary Chairpersons RONALD J. GIDWITZ Chairman Emeritus JACK STAHL Chairman of the Board JAMES L. CLARK President and CEO

connections vol . 35 , no. 3

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

CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE As my first year as chairman of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Board of Governors comes to a close, I could not be more pleased with our Movement’s accomplishments. My focus has been on the Great Futures strategy and supporting the pillars of the plan through the engagement of our board, trustees and staff. Making sure we stay focused on building Clubs’ capacity and the experience of our youth has been a priority. A recent study conducted with support from Hanover Research illuminates the transformational power of Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as areas we can improve. (For more on these findings, see “From Research to Practice” in the Spring 2015 issue at A top highlight of 2015 was our September Youth of the Year Celebration in Washington, D.C. The entire world met six extraordinary young people who stand as shining examples of the impact our Movement has on young lives. Generous support from our lead sponsor Disney, as well as Toyota, University of Phoenix and Taco Bell Foundation for Teens, has enabled BGCA to make this great program even greater with more character building and leadership development opportunities. Thanks to these corporate citizens, BGCA awarded over $1 million in scholarships to Youth of the Year participants – the most in the program’s 68-year history. September also saw the launch of the Boys & Girls Clubs-Alumni & Friends Club. Support from Alumni Club Spokesperson Shaquille O’Neal, celebrity ambassadors, hundreds of local Clubs and dozens of corporate partners and media sponsors created major buzz and awareness. I was thrilled at the success of this endeavor. My thanks to BGCA Governor Larry Young and his wife, Colette, for their hard work as co-chairs of the Alumni & Friends Club Council.

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.

Of course, all of the accomplishments and milestones that marked this year would not have been possible without the dedicated Club professionals, board members and volunteers who work every day to help the young people who need us most achieve great futures. Thank you for all that you did in 2015. I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds.

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. 2834-15 1SSN:0272-6513


BGCA Board of Governors

2 Reaching the Summit National Youth of the Year finalists a testament to the Club Experience

6 ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime’ Advanced Leaders Institute prepares teens to lead and succeed

8 ‘The Boys & Girls Club Hug’ Innovative partnership changes Club families’ lives Page 2

12 What do Teens Want? Race to the Club takes teen challenge to the experts




10 President’s Report BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark

14 Child and Club Safety Safety is essential to an exceptional Club Experience

16 View from the Potomac Youth of the Year and beyond Page 6

ON THE COVER Clockwise from top: 2015-16 National Youth of the Year Whitney with co-finalists Brooke, Courtney, RianSimone, Alora and Emily in pyramid formation at the White House.

Page 8 Yo u c a n a l s o f i n d C o n n e c t i o n s o n l i n e a t

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

National Youth of the Year finalists are a testament to the power of the Club Experience


By Nathan Cain

“I can do anything.” That was the thought Whitney Stewart, the 2015-16 National Youth of the Year, had standing on top of Old Man Mountain in Colorado. She reached that peak on a trip with her Club and kept on climbing. A member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, Florida,Whitney joined the Club when she was 11 years old and struggling to find her place. As the oldest child of a single mother, she had to grow up fast, helping take care of her younger siblings. She also struggled with feelings of worthlessness, which her Club Experience helped her overcome. The revelation she had on the mountain was one she took to heart. Whitney took on big responsibilities in her Club, becoming president of Keystone Club and serving on Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Teen Advisory Board. At school, she attained the top student leadership position in her school’s JROTC program. She also


Youth of the Year

started SEED to SOIL, a group that educates students and parents about healthy lifestyles and sustainable agriculture. Currently a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, she plans to become an attorney in the Air Force, followed by a career in politics and academia. “Boys & Girls Clubs saved and forever changed my life,” said Whitney. “My Club ignited a passion in me to achieve my dreams, and I’m proud to represent millions of teens and young Club alumni whose lives are forever transformed by their Boys & Girls Clubs.” Whitney will serve as our official teen spokesperson for the next year. She will also receive $145,000 in academic scholarships, a new car from Toyota and a trip to Disney World. Thanks to Youth of the Year sponsors Disney, Toyota, University of Phoenix and Taco Bell Foundation, Youth of the Year will award more than $1 million in scholarships to Club teens this year.

As part of the new, expanded Youth of the Year program, Whitney and her five National Youth of the Year co-finalists spent the week leading up to the celebration in Washington D.C., where they had the opportunity to watch the Phillies/ Nationals baseball game, visit the Newseum, a museum of news, and meet with members of Congress. In addition, they will meet with the President in the Oval Office at a later date. This year marked the first time the National Youth of the Year was announced at the Celebration Dinner.The change helped BGCA raise the program’s profile, allowing the National Youth of the Year announcement to be made on social media, another first. Those in attendance included BGCA National Spokesman and Club alum Denzel Washington, and singer and Club supporter Kelly Rowland. Read on to learn about all the remarkable teens who participated in this year’s National Youth of the Year Celebration.

For more information, please visit

Yo u t h o f t h eYe a r. o r g


Courtney Patterson Southwest Youth of the Year

Boys & Girls Club of Choctaw County • Hugo, Oklahoma

“My Boys & Girls Club allowed me to express my passion, pushed me to work harder, and helped me develop a diverse love for everyone … including myself.”

Emily Carvajal

Pacific Youth of the Year

Boys & Girls Clubs of South Valley • Murray, Utah

“I believe each of us has a purpose and a place in life. How we get there is up to us.The Club has helped me find my path.”



Youth of the Year

For his eighth birthday present, Courtney asked for a Boys & Girls Club membership. He kept attending the Club for 11 years. Even as events in 2011 threw him into depression, Courtney continued to attend the Club and help others. He served as vice president of Torch Club, the leadership and service group for youth ages 11 to 13. He threw himself into Junior Staff, the Club program that allows members to explore careers in human services. Courtney credits Power Hour, the homework help program, for fostering study skills that made him valedictorian of his high school class. He was very involved at his high school, too. He served as student council president, led a social media campaign to build a new school, and raised awareness about substance abuse, domestic violence and physical fitness. Courtney is now a freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he studies marketing and graphic design.

Emily’s Boys & Girls Club was often like a safe port in a raging storm. Shuffled to 11 schools in as many years, and with a home life both unstable and uncertain, Emily responded to her circumstances with determination and positivity. She credits Club staff with helping her to keep pace with her peers, which enabled her to become the first in her family to graduate from high school. Emily has eagerly given back to her Club in numerous ways, including by giving tours and representing the organization at public events. She served as president of Keystone Club, BGCA’s teen leadership group, and mentored younger Club members as a Junior Staff participant. Emily is currently studying human services at Salt Lake Community College and plans to pursue a career in youth development.

When she and her siblings were sent to live with her father (who has multiple sclerosis), Brooke had to take on adult responsibilities. She also found that many of her new peers were making poor choices. Brooke refused to let her situation define her. Instead, she became intensely involved at the Club. She served as president of Torch Club, the leadership and service group for 11-13-year-olds, and later was president of the teen leadership group, Keystone Club. Brooke helped her family handle tough issues with poise, grace and determination. As a result, her family members are thriving. Brooke is attending Southern Connecticut State University where she is majoring in business.

RianSimone was an active member and role model to many children and teens at the Vogelweh Youth Center, participating in leadership and service activities. Elected president of the National Honor Society last year, she was also student body committee vice president and led her school to enact a comprehensive recycling program. RianSimone also demonstrates what it means to be a good citizen, donating more than 450 hours of service to the Kaiserslautern Military Community since 2011. RianSimone is enrolled at Point Loma Nazarene University, where she is pursuing a degree in sociology and criminal justice.

Alora literally found her voice at the Club.

Brooke Grand

Northeast Youth of the Year

Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley • Shelton, Connecticut

“Without my Boys & Girls Club, I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today. From positive role models to being given the chance of a great future, I am forever indebted to my Club for changing my outlook on life and allowing me to see the positives – even when faced with so many negatives.”

RianSimone Harris

National Military Youth of the Year Vogelweh Youth Center • Kaiserslautern, Germany

“When I moved to Germany, the Club was there to welcome me with open arms. I quickly made friends and met people who had passions and struggles that were similar to mine, but were also different enough for me to learn new things.”

Alora Allen

Midwest Youth of the Year

Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties • Southfield, Michigan

Seeking refuge from a difficult home situation, she joined the Club as a shy 12-year-old.When she was cast in a Club production of the musical “Dreamgirls,” Alora had to face her fears. The success she discovered onstage gave her the confidence to make positive changes in her life. On the verge of being sent to an alternative school due to poor academic performance, she joined a Club mentoring program. Alora’s mentor challenged her to put more effort into her schoolwork. In one semester, she increased her grade point average from 2.9 to 3.9. During her time at the Club, Alora was active in Keystone Club, Cooking Club and Tomorrow’s Promise. As the heart and soul of the Club’s drama group, she acted, danced, sang and also directed productions. Alora attends Bowling Green State University and plans to become a music educator.

“If it weren’t for this place I call home, I don’t believe I would have found my voice. I don’t believe I would have found my passion for music. I don’t believe I would have graduated from high school on time, and I don’t believe I would be going to college. The Boys & Girls Club changed my life and I am forever grateful.”

Nathan Cain is a writer/editor for BGCA. For more information, please visit

Yo u t h o f t h eYe a r. o r g






hat happens when nearly 100 of the best and brightest teens from Boys & Girls Clubs across the country gather at one of the most beautiful and prestigious college campuses in the nation? “Fun!” said Nevada State Youth of the Year Jeffrey Valladares. “This was the very first time that Youth of the Year representatives from across the nation could gather. It was so cool to be a part of the Advanced Leaders Institute,” Valladares said. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to meet a lot of amazing people and improve my leadership and public speaking skills.”

To help teens develop these critical skills, Boys & Girls Clubs of America held its inaugural Advanced Leaders Institute at Emory University in Atlanta last June. The three-day conference brought together stateand regional-level Youth of the Year finalists from almost every state for an action-packed curriculum of leadership development workshops, networking, mentoring and, of course, fun. “Our vision for the Advanced Leaders Institute is threefold,” said Damon A. Williams, Ph.D., senior vice president, Program, Training and Youth Development Services for BGCA. “First, we want more Youth of the Year participants to have opportunities to develop their leadership potential and the personal brands they need to succeed in this digital age. Second, we aim to provide a top-notch pre-collegiate experience. And third, we want to foster a community of talented and goal-oriented youth so they can bond and lean on one another as they make their journey through life after their Club Experience.” The Advanced Leaders Institute is an evolution of the 68-year-old Youth of the Year program. Each


Youth of the Year

year, hundreds of talented teens progress from Club leaders to become state and regional Youth of the Year representatives. Ultimately, six national Youth of the Year finalists emerge. But BGCA knows there are many more Club youth who crave additional leadership and career-building opportunities.

REACHING MORE TEENS “We’ve heard from Club leaders across the country that they need new strategies to attract and retain teens. Part of that involves more opportunities to engage in high-quality programming that prepares teens for the 21st century workforce and to give back to their communities,” said Williams. “We want Clubs to know that we’ve been listening, and the Advanced Leaders Institute is one way to help meet their needs.” Another important aspect of the Advanced Leaders Institute is the role that Youth of the Year alumni play as mentors and faculty during the conference. “It’s so important for our Club youth to have these impressive young adults to learn from and bond with. It brings to life all the leadership lessons we try to teach them,” said Tiffany Henderson, senior director, strategic initiatives and conference manager for BGCA. “The youth development professionals who chaperone the teens throughout the Institute also serve as important mentors and role models.” Connections youth make at the Advanced Leaders Institute are particularly important for participants’ imminent transitions to college, and beyond. Because many Club youth who seek their bachelor’s degrees are often first generation college students (they or their siblings are the first in their families to go to college), most will need to overcome challenges that low-income families face. So they benefit from meeting peers with whom

they can relate. Studies have shown that lack of peer support was a negative predictor of college adjustment, and also a predictor of lower grade point averages. The Advanced Leaders Institute creates a support system for these first-generation students that could ultimately make all the difference in helping them to stay in college and graduate.

FOSTERING CREATIVITY AND CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT The programs and workshops of the Institute were run by employees from some of BGCA’s top sponsors, including Disney, Toyota and University of Phoenix. Disney offered sessions on creativity and leadership; University of Phoenix provided professional development experiences for Club staff; and Toyota led youth through a Kaizen exercise that was both a problem-solving model and a charity event for a local food bank. Kaizen, which in Japanese means good (zen) change (kai), is a philosophy that motivates people to continually improve their surroundings and one of Toyota’s core values. BGCA’s corporate partners and the skilled volunteers they provide are essential to the goal of helping kids grow into good citizens and ensuring they have the skills to succeed in any 21st century job they can imagine for themselves. “This first Advanced Leaders Institute was a huge success,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to see what next year brings – not only for the youth who will benefit from the thought-provoking and inspirational sessions, but because of what the Institute means for the growth and evolution of the Boys & Girls Club Movement overall.” Wendy S. Meyer is a freelance writer.

For more information, please visit

Yo u t h o f t h eYe a r. o r g




hrough sleepy, half-closed eyes, a collection of 25 middleschoolers gathered under a tent at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Park in Des Moines, Iowa. Revived with bagels and snacks, the kids were abuzz with energy and excitement by 7 a.m. Surrounded by shovels and wheelbarrows, tools and ladders, these Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa members and 200 adult volunteers prepared to accomplish something great: the renovation of a neighborhood playground, construction of a community garden, and refurbishment of six Boys & Girls Club family homes in the Des Moines community. The kids were joined by community partners looking to make a difference in the lives of Club families. The Central Iowa Club, Meredith Corporation and Rebuilding Together, a national organization that remodels homes of low-income families, partnered to provide six Club families with essential home improvements, built and installed food pantries at Club locations, and renovated community spaces, gardens and parks. The day was a powerful showcase of organizational partnerships in the Des Moines community. But the main goal was to make an impact in the lives of Club families.

THE CLUB HUG “We call it the Boys & Girls Club hug,” said Club CEO Jodie Warth. “It’s where we deliberately wrap our arms around those families that need us most, to meet our members’ immediate needs and try to relieve some stress within the home.”



Youth of the Year

Like many families, the Reyes family has faced the difficulties of maintaining safe, affordable housing. Their 100-year-old home, around the corner from the Baker Boys & Girls Club in Des Moines’ East Side neighborhood, was beset with signs of aging: crumbling stairs, frayed carpet, uneven floors, shaky support beams, old tiling. With four children, work and other responsibilities, the family did not have time or money to make the needed improvements. “Because of the kids, we wanted to get things fixed around the house to make it safe for them,” said homeowner Maria Reyes. “But we live day-by-day, paycheck-to-paycheck, so we didn’t have extra cash to do the repairs.”

FAMILIES TRANSFORMED Reyes found out about the unique opportunity one day while picking up her son, Bill, at the Club. “We learned about the application process and went to a dinner about it,” said Reyes. “We figured we would give it a try. But we had no idea all that would happen from it.” After turning in their application, the Reyes family was launched on a whirlwind process that culminated in more than 20 volunteers coming to their home for the Rebuilding Together workday. “We were amazed by the people who showed up and how fast they moved, painting and tearing up carpet,” said Reyes.

The experience left the Reyes family grateful for the partnership and community members who contributed to the success of the day.

After the day’s hectic activity, the difference was evident for both the Reyes family and the five other Club families who benefited. The volunteers from Meredith, Rebuilding Together and the Boys & Girls Club proved the mantra that great futures start not only with a great Club Experience, but also with a great home environment. “It helped change our family,” said Reyes, whose kids – especially Bill, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is very sensitive to tactile needs – now have a comfortable, secure home environment where they can relax, rest and learn. “Bill has friends come over for Bible study and now they have space to relax,” said Reyes. “He tells his friends to take off their shoes because he’s so proud of how clean and nice the carpeting is.” The renovations also bolstered relationships between the involved families and the Club. “The whole process definitely helped strengthen our relationship with the Boys & Girls Club,” said Reyes. “Bill had a great relationship with Club staff in elementary school and that has continued now at the Baker Club.”

“It feels like we moved into a new house,” Reyes said. “We are so grateful because there’s no way we could have done it without Meredith, Rebuilding Together, the Club and all the volunteers.”

BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE As the Reyes family experienced firsthand, the influence of safe, stable and secure housing transcends the home environment. Maria Reyes said she hopes to see similar programs and collaborations emerge that would connect Club families with local partners to improve community and living spaces. “There are a lot of families with the same needs as us,” said Reyes. “If they can do this same project in other communities, I’m sure it will make a huge difference in people’s lives.” CEO Jodie Warth seconded that sentiment. “If we can look at addressing the basic needs of youth, such as food, shelter and clothing, through innovative collaborations like this, we are going to make an enormous dent in the education crisis our country is experiencing,” said Warth. “Ultimately, together we’re better.” Abbey Barrow is coordinator of resource development and communication for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa.

For more information, please visit

Yo u t h o f t h eYe a r. o r g


columns President’s Report


2015 was another great year for the Boys & Girls Club Movement, as we continued to work to increase impact and position Boys & Girls Clubs as our nation’s leading advocate for America’s youth. With the Great Futures Impact Plan as a guide, Clubs are helping more young people achieve our priority outcomes of Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles. Using the Great Futures Impact Plan’s five allied goals as a benchmark, we can see steady progress has been made. Our aim to have 80 percent of Clubs measuring outcomes by 2018, for instance, was achieved last year. In the area of strategic growth, we gained over 200 Club sites in 2014, with average daily attendance reaching an all-time high of 424,000. Organizational focus on building capacity also trended upward, as Clubs with at least 75 percent of board members attending all meetings increased 13 percent. And Movement-wide revenue continued to rise steadily (2014 was an historic high), as we remained on track to meet our goal of 30 percent growth by 2018. Going forward, an upgrade to the Formula for Impact is in the works. Formula for Impact 2.0 will build on the success of the Formula for Impact to further define the important success factors youth need, and the support we provide for the Club Experience. Part of this upgraded framework will include a sharper focus on how we can help more young people master leadership skills to prepare them for success in the 21st century workforce. You can expect to hear more about this in the coming months.



President’s Report

YOUTH OF THE YEAR SHINES BRIGHT One major highlight of the year was the elevation of our signature Youth of the Year program. The National Youth of the Year Celebration in Washington, D.C., in September spotlighted the amazing accomplishments by six of our Movement’s young people. It was also an opportunity to highlight the dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers around the country and on military installations here and overseas who helped these youth reach their full potential and achieve great futures. The time I spent with National Youth of the Year Whitney Stewart and all our finalists was moving and inspiring. I am confident each of these six young people will continue to build on their success and go on to have great futures! As we worked to raise the profile of the Youth of the Year program, we strived to give Youth of the Year participants even more opportunities. This included the establishment of the Advanced Leaders Institute. The inaugural event was held at Emory University in Atlanta. It gave participants the opportunity to learn about collegiate life and develop their leadership skills and personal brand. (To learn more about ALI, please turn to page 6.)

THINKING BIG BGCA held two Great Thinks in 2015, solidifying our position as a thought leader in the youth development field. Both events brought together experts and influencers from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to lay out long-term strategies to address vital issues.

President’s Report


The first focused on teens and was part of our National Conference in Chicago. Teen outreach is crucial to our Movement’s future, making it the perfect time for this particular Great Think. Teens need the Club Experience as much as, if not more than, younger children. As they grow into adults, teens must make decisions that can affect the course of their entire lives. Bad decisions in middle school or high school can lead to lost opportunities. It is the responsibility of everyone in our Movement to guide teens to make responsible choices, so they can become our nation’s next generation of engaged citizens, parents and leaders. With our partner in teens, Taco Bell, we enter 2016 knowing our Movement needs to continue to focus on engaging, recruiting and retaining teen members. With this in mind, ask yourself: What is our strategy to grow teen membership services in 2016? The topic of the second Great Think was health and wellness, which took place after the National Youth of the Year Celebration. It centered on identifying strategic actions and collaborations as we build a comprehensive plan to improve health and wellness among Clubs and communities.

ALUMNI CLUB With help from celebrity ambassadors, corporate partners and media sponsors, we launched Boys & Girls Clubs-Alumni & Friends Club in September. The Alumni Club is a powerful tool that allows former members to stay in touch with old friends from the Club and connect with fellow alumni nationwide. It’s also designed to welcome new friends into our Movement. My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make the launch a success. All the great things we accomplished in 2015 would not have been possible without the support of our Board of Governors. Chairman Jack Stahl, a longtime board member, continues the tradition of leadership and vision established by his predecessors, all of whom contributed a great deal of time and effort to place Boys & Girls Clubs at the vanguard of the youth development field. And it couldn’t have been done without all of you, either. I offer my deep gratitude to all the Boys & Girls Clubs professionals, volunteers and board members whose hard work helped us accomplish our goals in 2015. I know you will be there for youth as we head into 2016, primed to do more great work to help children and teens achieve the great futures they deserve. I wish you, your families and your Boys & Girls Clubs a very happy holiday season.

For more information, please visit


columns Serving Teens




hen 1,500 teen leaders and their advisors from Boys & Girls Clubs across the country and around the globe met in Orlando for the 2015 National Keystone Club Conference, they were stunned to learn about the precipitous decline of teen membership in Clubs over the last decade.

As teens themselves, they offered some insight into the issue. In an onsite survey, 70 percent said non-engaged teens don’t attend because they believe the Club is for younger kids. In addition, 61 percent said teens in their community just don’t know about the Club and the great programs it offers. Most importantly, Keystone Club members told us they were ready to do something about it. From the main stage of the conference, Dr. Damon A. Williams, Ph.D., BGCA senior vice president of Program, Training and Youth Development Services, issued a challenge to the audience to collectively recruit 20,000 new teen members in one year. Keystone members have enthusiastically taken up that challenge with Race to the Club, a new peer outreach initiative that has become the fourth pillar – along with career readiness, community service and college preparation – of the Keystone program experience.

POINT OF PRIDE Already, the 288 Keystone Clubs that participated in the Race to the Club pilot test during the 2014-15 program year have successfully recruited thousands of new teen members. The new emphasis around teen outreach and recruitment has bred excitement amongst Keystone advisors and youth alike. “We have seen the Club save lives and, as youth development professionals, we want to reach as many teens as possible,” explained Kristin Goncalves, Keystone Club advisor at the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield in Connecticut. Outreach is important to Keystone members, too, but for different reasons. “The Club plays an important role in their lives,” said Goncalves. “If their outreach efforts are successful, then our teen program and Club are successful. Our Keystoners are proud of this success, contributing to their sense of belonging and ownership, and pride in their Club and their peers.” Advisor Laurie Rodriguez from the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, concurred. “When teen outreach became a part of the Keystone program, our staff took a step back from planning our teen events. Our Keystoners took ownership of teen outreach.” p

Serving Teens

Serving Teens


THE PLACE TO BE ON #WEOWNFRIDAY NIGHTS Not sure what to do on #WeOwnFriday night, the second Friday of the month and part of the Race to the Club teen outreach initiative? Check out this teen-generated list of events that Boys & Girls Clubs from across the country have hosted:

• • •

Back-to-school or holiday parties All-girls lock-in with panel discussion “Hunger Games”-style water balloon war Roller derby lock-in with live DJ Community service: serving meals at local shelters, assisting organizations that serve children or families in need, park and playground clean-ups

There’s no denying the energy and creativity Club teens have brought to the effort. Advisor Raquel Lee at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley in Chico, California, said, “Our Keystoners have come up with ideas and created events that our staff would never have thought of.”

GROWING LEADERS Keystone Clubs across the Movement have dedicated the second Friday of each month to outreach events. It’s an area where Club teens’ creativity has really shined through. Using the rallying cry #WeOwnFriday, Keystoners have drawn teens to their Clubs for game nights and “open mic” nights, organized Club-sponsored pep rallies and tailgate parties at sporting events, and held campouts and “lock-ins,” with teens gathering to discuss topics such as gender empowerment, applying to college and interacting with law enforcement. Teens are showing up, Keystone advisors believe, because they’re being invited by peers they like, admire and respect. As they strive to bring more teens into the Club, Keystoners are formulating outreach and retention strategies, designing marketing plans, and working with community partners to plan events. They’re feeling the pride of their successes and learning from less-successful efforts. Along the way, they’re getting tangible opportunities to learn and grow as skilled, 21st

century leaders, while helping other teens gain access to the same opportunities the Club provides them. And whether teens are planning a talent competition, a sports tournament or a service project, they can tap into their own passions. A teen who dreams of becoming a performing artist and is assigned a role to help plan a talent show may also have an opportunity to learn about other behind-the-scenes careers in the entertainment industry. Nothing is more powerful than hands-on experience to inspire a teen to explore the pathway to a rewarding career. Race to the Club is a win-win for Clubs looking to grow teen membership and for the Keystoners who are leading the charge. But the responsibility for serving teens – often the most underserved group in any community – must be shared throughout the Movement. “Teen members need to be the ambassadors for their teen program,” said Anthony Luna, Keystone Club advisor at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor. “But they must have the support of their Club and organization. Teen directors, Keystone advisors, Club leadership and board volunteers all need to be at the table for teen outreach and teen programs to be successful.” Jaynemarie Enyonam Angbah is senior director, teen youth development for BGCA. Adrianne Penner is director, teen youth development and national Keystone Club advisor for BGCA. For more information, please visit / Programs






afety – that is, providing a positive environment and a safe, structured setting – is a critical component for delivering a high-quality Boys & Girls Club Experience. Club safety itself is multi-dimensional. It encompasses physical and emotional safety, as well as risk reduction, and emphasizes safe relationships and safe environments. Therefore, it is a core part of Club members’ well-being. Through the National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI) annual member survey, Boys & Girls Clubs of America has found member perception of physical safety to be the most predictive measure of a favorable Club Experience and affirmative outcomes across age groups. In other words, young people who feel their Club is physically safe are also most likely to achieve the desired outcomes in our highpriority areas. And striving for great youth outcomes is what drives Boys & Girls Clubs to apply a continuous improvement cycle to Club safety. This means that you review your safety data from the NYOI, Online Safety Assessment and incident reports; create a Safety Improvement Plan and embed it in your organizational plan; act to carry out the plan; and repeat by continuing to assess strategies and adjust them as needed.

How a Safety Improvement Plan Might Include Both Facility Improvements and Behavioral Solutions





Unknown people can enter Club because front desk is too far from entrance.

Install front door camera and buzzer.

Door remains locked and staffed by greeters or unarmed security during operations.

Harassment in bathrooms.

Build single-stall bathrooms.

Launch bathroom pass and supervision strategy.

Blind spots become hot spots for improper conduct.

Purchase cameras and monitors.

Assess program schedule and member movement between activities.

Increased gym accidents.

Install more padding.

Increase supervision ratio; Coach staff to intervene more quickly for prevention.

Child & Club Safety

Child & Club Safety

CREATING A MEANINGFUL SAFETY PLAN When you submit an Online Organizational Safety Assessment, the system will return a report with recommendations for improvements. These are the start of your Safety Improvement Plan. As you progress, you may find that using NYOI results, holding focus groups to get input from members and parents, and brainstorming with staff and volunteers are valuable sources for building your plan. Be sure to ask each group for ideas about solutions, including prevention and risk-reduction strategies. The more you involve those invested in Club safety to create your plan, the more relevant and comprehensive a list of safety improvements you’ll get. (When staff at one Club asked members to reveal the best hiding places, they discovered blind spots they never knew about – like a high shelf kids could climb to and hide unnoticed!) Your board-led safety committee adds a “fresh eyes” perspective, of course, and it is important to have them drive plan implementation.

HOW TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS NOW NYOI research shows that augmenting the quality and quantity of adult supervision is the most significant factor that can improve youth perceptions of safety, contribute to a better Club Experience and produce positive member outcomes. With this in mind, there are pitfalls to be alert for as you finalize your plan. These include an insufficient focus on improving Club practices, excluding problems considered too costly or difficult to “fix,” and limiting improvements to a list of facility repairs.


ONLINE SAFETY SUPPORT The following resources are available at to provide Club members a safer and richer Club Experience. What Works for Building a Great Club Experience

Promising practices to improve your Club’s environment and program quality.

Online Safety Assessment

Identifies safety gaps, challenges and needs through a comparative safety practice analyses of all your sites.

National Youth Outcomes Initiative

Participate in the annual member survey or access your Club’s most recent member data.

If you think about it, the root causes of most safety incidents are member and staff behaviors. Accidental injuries can often be traced back to horseplay or improper use of sports safety equipment, for instance, reinforcing a need for better supervision and behavior management strategies. Other risks commonly encountered during safety consultations include those associated with front doors, front desks, bathrooms, and blind spots such as stairwells, corners and empty hallways. In these instances, remedies may include installing a surveillance system or remodeling the facility. But there is usually a behavioral solution, too. This is empowering because it enables staff to identify and implement immediate safety improvement strategies by changing their supervision behavior and better managing members behavior. Within an ideal Club Experience, members, families, staff and volunteers collaborate to design, practice and live a culture of safety. The result will provide young people with a space where they are comfortable being themselves, secure in the knowledge they have the necessary support to learn and grow, with trustworthy mentors to guide them. Mitru Ciarlante is a director for BGCA’s Child & Club Safety Department. For more information, please visit / ChildSafet y


columns View From The Potomac




nce again, the National Youth of the Year Celebration brought great excitement to the nation’s capital. It was a time to highlight the amazing personal stories of our National Youth of the Year candidates. Their ability to overcome adversity, and succeed so highly at their young ages, is a testament to their courage and the impact of the Club Experience. The opportunity to share these young people’s stories with our many administration and Congressional advocates was a unique experience for all concerned. The six youth met with several members of the Senate, including Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). They also visited Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), among others. The visits were extremely well received. The traditional visit to the White House is also planned. As these visits took place, Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Spokesman Denzel Washington made advocacy visits to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as well as Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL.) With Attorney General Lynch, Washington focused on the huge importance that federally subsidized youth mentoring programs have for Clubs. Meeting with members of Congress, Washington focused on federally-funded food service programs and 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, both high priorities for our Movement. His meetings were dynamic and well-received, and the National Youth of the Year Celebration created a very strong advocacy showing with supporters.

ADVOCACY APPROACHES Advocacy visits are critical for highlighting the great work of Boys & Girls Clubs, with three basic approaches commonly used. Club visits, for one, provide an opportunity to showcase programs and activities that make a difference for youth. These visits can be of the walk-through variety, or highlight activities of special interest to a visitor, such as youth mentoring activities, or p

View from the Potomac

View From The Potomac

response to a summer meals program. While they often have an informal feel about them, these are very important opportunities and should be scheduled and planned well in advance. A second type of advocacy visit is to your state capital or Washington, D.C., to discuss the Club program and how it impacts youth with a representative or senator. These are more formal sessions and your time will be very limited. This is a good opportunity to highlight ways that your Club needs assistance in programs or other areas. Finally, advocacy visits focused on specific and timely issues affecting Clubs that your senator or representative can help with (often as a member of a committee addressing the issue) should also be made. These are targeted, focused meetings to bring key points to bear on the issue. Your end goal should be a specific result. These advocacy approaches combine to help local Clubs and BGCA put forth a consistent, cohesive discussion of the importance of Clubs to youth and the issues affecting them.

IN DEVELOPMENT The Office of Government Relations is developing additional opportunities for advocacy engagement with government officials. One of them is the expansion of our third annual National Day of Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Scheduled for April 12-13, 2016, local Clubs will be asked to visit their representatives, senators and administration officials and share how government-funded grants and activities have impacted their Clubs. This is a concerted effort to raise national awareness of Boys & Girls Clubs and highlight key outcomes Clubs have achieved with government funding. More information will be available soon. In addition, Government Relations will provide Clubs with more targeted information on Congressional and state legislative bills and engagement opportunities. This predictive effort will drive efficiencies by focusing on bills with a strong chance to be passed, highlight who the decision-makers are, and allow for more effective advocacy efforts at the national and state levels. Again, more information will soon be available.


HOW YOU CAN HELP Advocacy means we bring the right person, with the right message, at the right time, to engage with the decision-maker who can positively affect an issue. If any of those elements are not present, the goal may not be realized. To help improve advocacy efforts, you can: • Find the right person to deliver the message (based on relationship, presentation skills, knowledge of issue or Club). • Know the facts about an issue and clearly and concisely communicate them. • Understand the right time to undertake an advocacy event. (If Congress is in session, for example, they will not likely be in their home districts to visit Clubs.) • Know who to meet and how they can affect an issue. (Just because someone is elected, it doesn’t mean they have ready access to all issues.) • Bring only materials pertinent to the main issue you’re meeting about. Overwhelmingly, too much paper is left with government officials – and usually finds its way to the trash. Government Relations can help you frame all of these issues and improve your advocacy activities. We are also keenly interested in the visits you make and the results you achieve. Please keep us informed, and we will do the same for you. Together, our advocacy is stronger and means more at the bottom line. Kevin McCartney is Senior Vice President of Government Relations for BGCA.

To share your advocacy efforts or if you have questions about effective advocacy, please contact Sage Learn, director of policy and advocacy, at

For more information, please visit


Connections Winter 2015-2016  

Reaching the Summit. National Youth of the Year finalists, a testament to the Club Experience.

Connections Winter 2015-2016  

Reaching the Summit. National Youth of the Year finalists, a testament to the Club Experience.