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ONE AMERICA Commemorating 25 years of service to Native youth, communities and culture






FA L L 2 0 1 7 RONALD J. GIDWITZ Chairman Emeritus MYRON GRAY Chairman of the Board JAMES L. CLARK President and CEO


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

CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE Our 111th National Conference in Dallas this past May was a very special one for me. For starters, it was the first conference I’d attended as Chairman of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Board of Governors. To be with our Movement all at once was a powerful experience, a reminder that you – Boys & Girls Club professionals – provide the inimitable energy that powers 4,300 Clubs across the country to serve millions of youth, year in and year out. It’s what you do. And nobody does it better. One particular highlight that made the conference special was your resounding support for Great Futures 2025. Nearly 95 percent of voting organizations affirmed the strategic plan at our National Council meeting. This exhilarating result reinforced my conviction that Great Futures 2025 is the right move, at the right time, for all Boys & Girls Clubs. Our Movement’s success comes from you, the Clubs that serve the distinct needs of their community’s youth. Great Futures 2025 honors this critical service, while focusing on our shared priorities that can help our kids achieve greater outcomes and, ultimately, great futures … theirs and ours. It offers a means to align all of our long-term efforts, so that each organization’s plan focuses on quality, advocacy and, in due course, sustainable growth. We created Great Futures 2025 as a collective. And, as a collective, we will work to strengthen Boys & Girls Clubs and ensure they can provide the best possible Club Experience to our young people … especially those who need us most.

MYRON GRAY 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 refl ect policies of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Copyright ©2017 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Job No. 3191-17 1SSN:0272-6513

CHAIRMAN BGCA Board of Governors

"Our Movement’s success comes from you, the Clubs that serve the distinct needs of their community’s youth."


FEATURES 2 One America


Commemorating 25 years of service to Native youth, communities and culture

6 Actions Speak Louder than Tweets Witnessing Katy Perry’s superstar support of Clubs


8 2017 Alumni Hall of Fame Meet seven extraordinary people whose journey to greatness began at a Club

Join and

12 A Place Where Everyone’s Accepted

to become a

An inclusive Club environment for LGBTQ youth elevates safety for all young people


14 Advancing Leaders in A-Town Youth of the Year reps visit Atlanta for a weekend of leadership learning

COLUMNS 4 News and Notes What’s happening across the Movement

10 President’s Report


BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark

16 Serving Teens The value of youth voice

18 Child & Club Safety Is your Club ready for an emergency?

20 View from the Potomac Thinking nationally, acting locally 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

ONE AMERICA Commemorating 25 years of service to Native youth, communities and culture By John Collins

A partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is what led to the opening of the first Boys & Girls Club on Native lands. At the time, the two entities were working closely to establish Clubs in HUD-managed public housing communities. That synergy – combined with HUD seeking to provide youth services for housing it operated on Native lands and BGCA ramping up efforts to bring Clubs to more non-traditional sites – resulted in the 1992 opening of the SuAnne Big Crow Boys & Girls Club in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. It was a landmark moment for our Movement, as well as simple confirmation of our shared commitment to the Boys & Girl Club mission: to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Because nowhere was that need greater than in Native communities. Yet, 25 years later, Native communities and its young people continue to be negatively impacted by numerous issues driven by well-documented historical trauma. Domestic violence and abuse is persistent. Unemployment is high. Single-parent homes are common. Obviously, numerous Native children and teens are thriving and lead successful, productive lives. But, as a group, these young people remain one of the country’s most vulnerable populations in the United States, grievously affected by factors that include: Type-2 diabetes nearly 3 times the national rate An alcoholism mortality rate 514 percent higher than the general population A high school graduation rate around 50 percent The highest rate of methamphetamine use in the United States Suicide as the second leading cause of death for Native youth ages 15 to 24 2

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This disturbing yet familiar information is evidence that Native youth, their families and their communities continue to be in need of the support, safety and hope Boys & Girls Clubs provide. As a Movement, we continue to make strides to support Native people … progress that must, and will, continue.

Our Commitment Recognizing an opportunity to more robustly address concerns unique to Native lands, and improve the sustainability of all Native Clubs, BGCA introduced the Native Services Unit in 2013. Led by staff of Native ancestry – a significant cultural and political point to Native people – the unit has heightened BGCA’s internal facility to build and sustain alliances with tribal leaders, deliver professional development specifically for Native Clubs, and strengthen Native youth’s cultural identity with more culturally relevant learning opportunities. With nearly 200 Clubs on Native lands, BGCA is honored to observe the 25th anniversary of this crucial partnership as the nation’s largest service provider to Native youth. Found in 27 states throughout the country, Native Clubs serve over 86,000 youth a year, who represent more than 100 American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities. At our Movement’s National Conference in May, the Native Services Unit signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Health Service (the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for providing federal health services to Native peoples). One aspect of the memo is that mental health providers can make informal visits to Native Clubs at least once a

The most powerful insights came from Native Club members, who shared influences that have helped them overcome challenges, and experiences that could benefit their peers and future generations. One young person spoke of how their Club helped them manage responsibility typically reserved for a parent: “My younger brother, at age 11, was borderline diabetic. I had to learn to cook healthy because I was raising him. But the Club was there. They provided healthy food for us, and that helped him develop a habit of eating healthy.” Another youth talked about their battle with depression:

week. This should allow youth to interact with mental health providers in a more casual manner, reducing anxiety of being stigmatized by peers. In areas without access to mental health support, Club staff will be trained in Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour course on how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use. These are significant accomplishments. The rural, isolated location of many Native communities makes accessing mental health services very challenging. When treatment is available, high levels of poverty often prevent youth from receiving care. Further compounding the issue is the fact that community-based mental health programs, such as suicide prevention, often do not exist on Native lands, which eventually leads to more youth needing acute mental health services.

Great Think Indian Country In July 2016, BGCA and the Department of Health and Human Services co-hosted Great Think Indian Country in Washington, D.C. Part of the ongoing Great Think series, the day-long forum brought together noted thought leaders and influencers from the nonprofit, business and government communities for spirited discussions around five especially critical issues facing Native youth: resilience, mental wellness, substance abuse, education, and physical and nutritional health. Participants proposed various ways that public, private and nonprofit entities might better collaborate to help Native youth manage the pressures of their unique circumstances and realize their full potential. Altogether, about 100 people, including numerous Boys & Girls Club staff and members, participated.

Many factors helped solve my depression. The biggest one? The Boys & Girls Club making me feel like I was safe. I could go to staff there because I trusted them.

The above quotes were excerpted from the white paper “Great Think Indian Country: Aligning Efforts to Support Resilient Native Youth.” The paper offers a summary of important information that emerged from the forum, including actions that Native communities and their partners can take to improve the lives of Native youth. It can be downloaded at Over the course of 25 years, Clubs have reached thousands of Native youth. With some 2.1 million Native people under age 24 throughout the country, our work is far from done. But by working together, we will continue to reach and serve more and more youth on Native lands. As Dr. Beverly Cotton, director of the Division of Behavioral Health for the Indian Health Service, told us at the Great Think, “This is a true collaborative opportunity. We can build off what youth are saying. We have the opportunity as program and policy folks, and as funders, to make changes and make sure good things happen.”

NATIVE SUMMIT 2017 The 2017 Native Summit will take place Nov. 14 - 16 in Fort Myers, Florida. Presented by BGCA’s Native Services Unit, the summit will bring together tribal leaders to exchange best practices, youth development professionals to learn new programming strategies, and youth performers to showcase their skills. Registration and additional details will be announced shortly at John Collins is senior writer/editor for BGCA.




Kids Need Arts, Clubs Can Deliver In 1987, Dr. Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University began a longitudinal study to find out how kids spent their non-school hours. From around the U.S., 120 communitybased organizations – all free, most in impoverished communities – were selected and grouped into three categories: athletic-academic, community service, and arts-based. Seven years into the 10-year study, Dr. Heath found the children engaged in arts activities looked “very different.” The study, “Youth Development and the Arts in Non-school Hours,” found the artsbased cohort “exhibited an intensity in certain characteristics, including motivation, persistence, critical analysis and planning.” Research also revealed that “young people actively engaged in arts learning and arts productions improve their self-esteem and confidence, assume leadership roles, and improve their overall school performance.” With that in mind, be sure to register for BGCA’s National Arts Festival, beginning the week of Sept. 10, at If you’d like to review the above study in its entirety, visit

Penguin Donates Playground to Pittsburgh Club After winning his third Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury extended the celebration by funding a new state-of-the-art playground for the Sto-Ken-Rox Boys & Girls Club in Pittsburgh. The huge play area includes a rubber surface for year-round fun and games, plus a water feature for steamy summer days. The goodhearted goaltender gifted the Club with a bunch more cool stuff, too: games, educational materials, electronics and sports equipment … including, of course, hockey nets, a score clock and equipment for the Club's indoor dek hockey rink, since named Rink 29 in gratitude.

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Marc-Andre Fleury and wife, Veronique, open the new playground with friends.

A-Rod Recollects Club Days at All-Star Game Major League Baseball, longtime partner of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, played its 88th All-Star Game in Miami in July. To commemorate the occasion, MLB revealed a newly restored baseball field at the Miami Boys & Girls Club in nearby Kendall Kendall. Among the attendees was retired baseball star and BGCA Alumni Hall of Famer, Alex Rodriguez, who shared what the Club meant to him as a kid growing up in Miami.


Average Teens as Sedentary as Seniors

“My mother worked two jobs, she was a secretary in the morning and served tables at night," said Rodriguez to press gathered at the event. “I remember every day getting dropped off at the Boys & Girls Club, doing my homework … then I would play baseball under the lights as a 9-yearold boy.” Rodriguez, who was in town with fellow Alumni Hall of Famer Jennifer Lopez, later covered the game for Fox Sports.

There’s a reason Healthy Lifestyles is one of our three top outcome areas for Club kids. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, for instance, found activity levels among older adolescents to be “alarmingly low” and, by age 19, comparable to those of 60-year-olds. Researchers evaluated data from over 12,500 Americans, ages 6 to 84, who wore activity tracking devices for one week as part of national health surveys conducted between 2003 and 2006. Among 12- to 19-year-olds, over 50 percent of males, and more than 75 percent of females, failed to meet World Health Organization recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity. “For school-age children, the primary window for activity was between 2 and 6 p.m.,” said Vadim Zipunnikov, study senior author and assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Biostatistics. “So the big question is, how do we modify daily schedules, in schools for example, to be more conducive to increasing physical activity?” Learn more at

A-Rod, with Club kid and Billy the Marlin in Kendall.



Actions SPEAK Louder THAN TWEETS Superstar Katy Perry shares the spotlight with Boys & Girls Clubs “♥Actions speak louder than♥Tweets We can create change in our own communities: sign up w/ @GlblCtzn & visit your local @BGCA_Clubs to…donate school supplies OR apply to volunteer to earn GREAT tickets to see me on #WITNESSTHETOUR.” On July 31, the above tweet from pop-music superstar Katy Perry reached all 102 million people who follow her on Twitter. In conjunction with her upcoming U.S. tour and new album, “Witness,” Perry, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and advocacy organization Global Citizen have partnered up to encourage the public to #WitnessTheFuture and get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs. “This is an enormous opportunity to educate the public about Boys & Girls Clubs and the impact we make on the 4 million kids we serve every year,” said Frank Sanchez, national vice president of business and community affairs for BGCA. By engaging fans in meaningful ways, Perry seeks to inspire a younger generation of advocates to give back, and learn how Clubs help kids succeed. In a recent interview with the TV program “Extra,” Perry described how she admires Boys & Girls Clubs for being “accessible to all children … a place kids can come together and they can learn, they can be together, and they can play.”


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Get Involved, Get a Toolkit

For tips and guidance on how your Club can best get involved with the Katy Perry promotion,

download the “Katy Perry + Boys & Girls Clubs Toolkit.” Contents include ways to engage

volunteers, how to leverage the KP partnership during the holidays and campaign resources

available exclusively to Clubs. Download your toolkit today at

Free Tix!

Besides donating $1 of every concert ticket sold to BGCA, the singer is urging young people coast-to-coast to support local Clubs. As added enticement, anyone who donates school supplies, a monetary donation, or volunteers at a Club has the opportunity to see Perry perform live! Fans who register at and make a donation will be entered to win a pair of tickets; those who volunteer at a Club will be entered to win a pair of VIP tickets and a meet-and-greet with Perry. Complete entry details can be found at Free tickets were also set aside for Clubs in cities that the tour will reach. Club members who performed community service and submitted their project to were entered for a chance to win free tickets. On her new song “Chained to the Rhythm,” Perry sings of wanting to “break down walls, connect, and inspire,” alluding to a responsibility she feels to be more aware and involved with the world around here. Her efforts on behalf of Boys & Girls Clubs have certainly connected and inspired many within this Movement.




Anthony Anderson

Dante Lauretta, Ph. D.

Meet seven extraordinary people whose

journey to greatness began at a local Club

Tony Clark

Paul “Triple H” Levesque

Each year at our National Conference,

Boys & Girls Clubs of America recognizes and celebrates former Club members for

outstanding achievement with induction to the BGCA Alumni Hall of Fame. Last May in Dallas, we proudly named and inducted seven such

exceptional individuals. Here are their stories. Skylar Diggins

Philip S. Schein, M.D.


Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club Compton, California

Jason Witten


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Gang violence and drug abuse were not uncommon in Compton, the L.A. suburb Anthony and his family called home. At the Watts/Willowbrook Club, Anthony found a safe haven. Appearing in TV commercials by the age of five, he went on to graduate from the High School for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. He attended Howard University on scholarship, earning a theater arts degree from the historic black university. In 1993, he landed his first significant movie role in the comedy, “Life.” His acting versatility has since allowed Anthony to star in comedies, dramas and action movies, including “Barbershop,” “The Departed” and “Transformers.” He now stars in the popular sit-com, “Black-ish.”


Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego San Diego, California

The first time he entered the Club at age 8 and saw its basketball courts, ping-pong tables and pool tables, Tony couldn’t figure out what to play first. He developed into an outstanding youth baseball and basketball player, recruited by colleges in both sports. After a serious back injury as a University of Arizona freshman, he transferred to San Diego State University and played basketball and baseball. In 1990, the Detroit Tigers drafted him with the second pick of the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Over a 15-year career, he batted .262 with 251 home runs and 824 RBIs. Tony joined the Major League Baseball Players Association as director of player relations in 2010. Three years later, players unanimously elected him MLBPA executive director – the first former player, and first person of color, to hold the position.


Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County South Bend, Indiana

From the day she joined the Club in first grade, Skylar never wanted to leave. She played, made friends, did her homework and loved playing on basketball courts inside and outside the Club. She’d hoop all day, putting up shot after shot after shot. Those baskets paid off, as Skylar captained her high school team to a four-year record of 102-7 and a state championship. Skylar was a star student, too, who belonged to the National Honor Society. While many colleges recruited her, Skylar stayed home to attend the University of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish star was a four-time All-American, and graduated with a degree in management. Now an All-Star guard for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, she is also founder of Skylar’s Scholars, a nonprofit that honors teens for their academic achievements.


Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix Phoenix, Arizona

When their parents separated, the Club provided a safe place for Dante and his two brothers while their mother worked. The positive influence of Club staff also shaped Dante’s developing leadership skills. After high school, he earned a dual bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics, then a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences. In 2011, NASA named Dante as principal investigator for OSIRIS-Rex, a seven-year mission to launch a spacecraft to an asteroid, scoop up a sample and return to earth. The mission inspired him to create “Xtronaut,” a STEM curriculum that reinforces concepts such as math, science, vocabulary and cooperative-learning. He piloted Xtronaut at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. Dr. Lauretta is professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry for the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.


Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua Nashua, New Hampshire

Paul was 5 the first time he visited the Club. To his dismay, he wasn’t old enough to join. When he did get his membership card a year later, he felt like he held the key to the universe. Every day after school, he’d walk to the Club, where he loved to draw and paint. The Club also introduced Paul to traditional wrestling — nothing like the wrestling he watched on Saturday morning TV. After graduating from high school, Paul became a competitive body builder. In 1992, he enrolled in a pro wrestling school run by legendary wrestler, Killer Kowalski. He made his WWE debut in 1995 as the snobby “Connecticut Blue Blood,” Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Now a WWE executive vice president, Paul continues to compete as Triple H.


Asbury Park Boys Club Asbury Park, New Jersey

When his father, a firefighter, perished in the line of duty, Phil found a second home at The Boys Club. It was the Club that sponsored him in a national scholarship competition to study piano, which the 13-year-old won. Phil was also an active Boy Scout, earning its highest honor of Eagle Scout. Today, Dr. Schein is one of the world's leading authorities in the treatment of cancer, and a professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Oxford University. He has been awarded 11 patents, and published over 350 articles and texts concerning cancer research and drug development. Dr. Schein graduated from Rutgers University, then obtained his medical degree from Upstate Medical University of New York.


Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County Elizabethton, Tennessee

Jason joined the Club at the age of 11. He knew people there cared about him. A four-year starter at linebacker and tight end in high school, Jason was named USA Today Tennessee Player of the Year as a senior. At the University of Tennessee, he became one of the most productive tight ends in the school’s history. A 10-time Pro Bowl selection, his 1,089 career receptions place him among the top 10 receivers in NFL history. His off-the-field actions include establishing Jason Witten Learning Centers at Clubs in Texas and Tennessee. In 2012, Jason was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his community service.



columns President’s Report

A Pivotal Year Laying groundwork for the soon-to-launch Great Futures 2025

Thus far, 2017 has proven to be an eventful and successful year for Boys & Girls Clubs. Nowhere was that more evident than at our National Conference, where Clubs from around the country were honored for professional achievements. One particular highlight of the National Conference was the approval of the Great Futures 2025 strategic direction. Nearly 650 organizations voted on the proposal, more than any vote in the history of our Movement. Of those, nearly 95 percent affirmed the direction of the plan. That’s an exciting level of endorsement for the strategy – which Club professionals and volunteers helped design – to increase the reach of the high-quality Club Experience. Great Futures 2025 is about two things: strengthening organizations strong, and giving kids the best Club Experience possible – especially those who need us most. As all of us work to keep young people on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, this plan is a way for Clubs to collectively impact more children, teenagers and communities by staying focused on the priority outcomes of Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.

Great Futures 2025 is about Two Things

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Jim Clark, President and CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of America

The driving force behind the plan to provide young people with transformational, life-changing experiences is to take the best parts of our history, and set a direction to create great futures in new ways. This is our opportunity – and responsibility – to reintroduce the prospect of achieving the American Dream to youth entering Club doors. A service delivery plan is being developed that will provide a framework for how Boys & Girls Clubs of America will assist Clubs to achieve their goals through Great Futures 2025, including the evolution of leadership development across organizations. In the meantime, this important dialogue will continue, beginning at the upcoming Fall Leadership Conferences and extending into 2018 and beyond.

SAFETY, TRAINING LEAD THE WAY As articulated at the National Conference, 2017 is a “pivot year” before the plan begins in 2018. With this in mind, several initiatives related to Great Futures 2025 are being rolled out. At the same time, BGCA remains focused on two important areas – safety and training. Safety is at the foundation of Boys & Girls Clubs – it always has been and always will be our #1 priority. Clubs can access comprehensive safety assessments, strong policies and procedures, training and hands-on support.

Strengthening Clubs and Giving Kids the Best Club Experience Possible

Still, there is work to be done. Reinforcing a culture of safety requires integrating it into everything we do, both at a national and local level. That’s why the Child & Club Safety team has been expanded, a Club emergency response plan developed, and safety further incorporated into program development. Additionally, the National Area Council Committee has recommended several changes to safety-related membership requirements. These modifications are intended to strengthen organizations, streamline Clubhouse safety, and further safeguard Club members’ wellbeing by ensuring every Boys & Girls Club organization will: • Conduct an annual online safety assessment • Maintain a board-led safety committee • Adopt a national emergency response plan • Perform enhanced staff and volunteer background checks • Create specific policies around drug use, bathroom use, supervision and transportation

CLUB PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Feedback and input received during the strategic planning process made it clear that you want more training and development opportunities for frontline staff. Numerous training programs have already been initiated this year, including Youth Development Institutes, teen membership training, and best practice sharing via the Youth Development Toolbox on Club directors play one of the most critical roles to consistently delivering a high-quality Club Experience. As illustrated in the 2025 plan, a Club Directors Academy was launched to help these key staff members develop effective leadership practices, create continuous improvement plans and enhance the Club Experience. Equally important will be Club directors cascading youth development practices to their teams to amplify the impact of training. All staff will be able to advance their skills by using a mobile app. Directors – and anyone who oversees Club operations, develops or supervises frontline staff and volunteers, or manages a team that delivers a high-quality Club Experience – should register for upcoming Club Directors Academy sessions at

MISSION METRICS UP 2016 was another year of positive results and impact for youth, which is reflected in Movement-wide results. Mission metrics including average daily attendance, overall membership, and teen membership at non-military sites all increased. This is absolutely incredible work! Particularly the work around teens. Last year’s launch of the Year of the Teen strategy included a challenge to increase teen membership at Clubs. And did you ever deliver! In 2016, non-military Clubs provided life-changing experiences to 25,000 more teens … the first such increase in teen membership since 2007! Congratulations! As laid out in the Great Futures 2025 Operational Framework, Movement-wide goals were established in two key areas – ADA and teens served. For 2018, the objective is for both to grow by 3 percent. Targets for registered members and a collective Club Experience measure will also be established, with progress reports provided to organizations to keep them up-to-date on Club member success. Everyone should be extremely proud of the work being done. In 2016, this Movement once again reached the milestone of 4 million youth served. Your passion and commitment are driving factors in helping more youth achieve great futures. By continuing these efforts, our vision to assure success is within reach of every young person who enters Club doors can be realized. Thank you for everything you’re doing to change the dynamic for young people in your community and across the country. CONNECTIONS


A PLACE WHERE EVERYONE’S ACCEPTED An inclusive Club environment for LGBTQ youth elevates safety for all young people By Kate Buechner place. You can’t do that without having support in place for youth who are part of the LGBTQ community.” Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth is not so different from serving kids from other types of diverse backgrounds, says Flynn. “Every kid has different needs. But they all need encouragement, reassurance and love to grow and become the best they can be.” “Letting the kids know that it’s OK to bring your whole, authentic self to the Club – that is absolutely our job,” agrees Northrup. “As someone who has gone through being bullied for being different, for being gay, I want to ensure the Club is truly a safe space for all youth.” Prompted by his personal commitment, Northrup helped arrange staff training for the Columbus organization to better serve LGBTQ youth.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer (LGBTQ) youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they’ve been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. They are two times less likely to graduate from high school or pursue a college education. They have lower GPAs than young people who are harassed less often. Youth who identify as LGBTQ are at higher risk for a wide variety of negative outcomes, including homelessness, drug abuse and self-harm. But research shows that having even one place where a young person feels accepted is a protective factor against those elevated risks. “There are LGBTQ kids in every community, across every socioeconomic demographic,” says Johnathon Northrup, a board member from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, in Ohio, and a senior vice president at Bank of America. “We all agree that our mission is to serve every youth who enters our doors.”

A Safe Place for All A few years ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ridgefield in Connecticut chose to intentionally and conscientiously adapt its policies and practices to be inclusive of LGBTQ youth. The Club has never looked back. “It’s the work we already do, that we’re so passionate about,” says CEO Mike Flynn. “It’s about getting all of our kids to a better


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At its best, a Boys & Girls Club is a place that celebrates individuals for exactly who they are, says Flynn. And it works. He points to Youth of the Year as proof: the most accomplished young people in the Boys & Girls Club Movement, candidates consistently cite similar elements when they describe their life-changing Club Experience. “Diversity, acceptance and safety – emotional safety – that’s what we hear Youth of the Year talk about,” Flynn says. “Those are the things they take away.”

Inclusion and the Club Experience Research shows that when Clubs create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ youth, they can elevate social and emotional safety for all young people. Fun and supportive relationships, opportunities and expectations, and recognition all depend upon the existence of a safe, positive environment. Getting inclusion right is the critical first step to providing all members with a high-quality Club Experience. LGBTQ youth can face rejection by their families and peers, and abuse and bullying at school. They may experience depression and anxiety, miss school, and use drugs and alcohol. They are four times more likely to commit suicide. For young people confronted by such obstacles, caring adults and a welcoming place where they can explore their identities and create meaningful relationships – those things can truly change their lives.

LGBTQ Initiative While intentionally serving LGBTQ youth is a new challenge for some Clubs, more and more voices from the field are asking how they can provide a positive, supportive environment for LGBTQ members. In response, BGCA has launched an LGBTQ Inclusion Initiative to support Clubs in creating a high-quality Club Experience for all youth. The power of the Club Experience is one reason Northrup joined the board in Columbus, he says. “I have the card on my desk that reminds me every day that over 50 percent of former Club kids say the Club actually saved their lives. We can’t exclude or ignore this group of kids that need our help probably the most.” As we build a national dialogue about inclusion for LGBTQ youth, BGCA is striving to identify and share successful strategies. As always, local organizations must carefully consider the values and needs of the populations they serve, while also remembering that Clubs are uniquely positioned to lead positive change in their communities. There’s no imperative that Clubs adopt any specific policies or BGCA resources. In fact, we hope you’ll tell us what you need. Please share your successes, the challenges you face, and what type of support and resources you want. Email Danielle Narcisse, director, gender and wellbeing, at

Kate Buechner is director, social and behavioral change, for BGCA.


The Serving LGBTQ Youth toolkit offers resources to help any Club at every step of the process, including policy suggestions, best practices and activities. The following suggestions to promote inclusiveness were excerpted from the toolkit, available at 1. Address Inappropriate Behavior at Once. Anti-LGBTQ actions range from a derogatory comment such as, “That’s so gay,” to physical harassment. Conduct like this requires immediate intervention. Failure to respond at once suggests such behavior is acceptable. 2. Celebrate LGBTQ Awareness Dates. A fun way to involve Club members by making artwork, holding events and inviting speakers to observe special times such as LGBT History Month in October and Pride Month in June. 3. Show Support. Sharing positive messages throughout the Club with signs, posters, wristbands or pins shows LGBTQ youth and families that they are clearly part of an inclusive environment. 4. Set Policy. If you don’t have an LGBTQ policy in place, work with staff to see how existing policies may be amended to be more inclusive of LGBTQ members. Be sure to immediately inform staff, Club members, board members and families of policy changes. 5. Use Gender-Neutral Language. A small but effective way to demonstrate inclusiveness is to use genderneutral terms on intake, field trip and registration forms. Instead of “mother” and “father,” use “guardian.” Rather than “brother” or “sister,” try “sibling.” CONNECTIONS





Last summer in downtown Atlanta, state and military Youth of the Year representatives from around the nation and military installations overseas came to the campus of Georgia State University for Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s third annual Advanced Leaders Institute (ALI). Over three days, teens participated in educational sessions, mentoring experiences and networking opportunities to develop their leadership skills, gain strategies for college and career success, and connect with peers holding similar ambitions to achieve a great future.

Participants also benefitted through professional insights delivered by volunteers from BGCA sponsors regarding leadership in the business world. Representatives from Disney, for instance, delivered a captivating presentation on the intersection of creativity and leadership. Later, Toyota employees led teens through a Kaizen exercise, a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices. And educators from University of Phoenix engaged Club staff members in valuable professional development practices.

One unique element of ALI is that Youth of the Year alumni serve as mentors and faculty to their rising peers. Serving this role in Atlanta were our 2016-17 National Youth of the Year finalists, whose lessons included tips to help attending teens achieve success on their own Youth of the Year journeys.

Forming new friendships and networks is another key part of the ALI experience, especially for those preparing to head off to college, not a few of whom are the first in their family to do so. By making friends with peers they share much in common with, first-generation college students can also gain an invaluable support system. One day, having that shoulder to lean on could be the difference that keeps a Club alum enrolled in college and graduating.

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Model Damaris Lewis spoke of how research helps people stay informed and arrive at their own opinions, whatever the topic. Damaris is a member of BGCA’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

The Toyota session concluded with teens collecting, packing and donating about $1,000 of unused food from activities to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

From left: 2016-17 National Youth of the Year reps Arianna, Abria, Jocelyn, Raliyah and Alexia welcome teens to GSU campus.

Pro skateboarder Preston Pollard urged teens to always strive to fulfill their total potential. The guest speaker attended the Boys & Girls Clubs of Alaska in Anchorage.

Teens collecting, packing and donating about $1,000 of unused food from activities to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Mickey Mouse welcomes teens to the GSU campus!



columns Serving Teens

THE VALUE OF YOUTH VOICE LISTEN TO YOUR TEENS, AND THEY’LL TELL YOU HOW TO CREATE A GREAT CLUB EXPERIENCE By Michelle McQuiston When youth have chances to exercise their voice – to provide input, see their feedback acted upon and even lead activities – they learn better and develop such critical skills as self-direction, communication and strategic thinking. Employing youth voice can also protect against depression and problem behaviors, according to a literature review by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. While elevating youth voice is good for members, it’s great for Clubs, promoting both engagement and retention. “Youth become more excited and more invested in things that they or their peers bring to the table,” explains Meg Gambale, Clubhouse program director for the James L. McKeown Boys & Girls Club of Woburn in Massachusetts. “When they feel ownership over the program, they are more likely to continue to be a part of the Club.” While the benefits are proven, research also shows that many teachers and other adults lack confidence in kids’ and teens’ decision-making ability. So there’s an important role for Clubs in letting youth exercise their voice during out-of-school time. For teens in particular, opportunities to explore their own interests and practice autonomy can make or break the Club Experience.

Listen, then act The most basic way to honor youth voice in the Club is to solicit feedback from members and act upon it. Ask youth about their needs and interests, and use that information to drive program offerings. At the Boys & Girls Club of Benton County in Arkansas, staff survey members about the games they want in the gym and tournaments for the gamesroom. Some youth even organize the tournaments or lead other activities. “If youth aren’t participating in daily activities, we listen and ask what they want to see in the Club, so they can get involved in something,” says Ashley Skaggs, director of program development. 16

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Three years ago at the James L. McKeown Club, a young man named George asked permission to teach an origami class. “We started with a small group of interested members, and it blossomed into a weekly program,” says Gambale. George has honed his skills, in both origami and program planning. And his peers and younger members now look forward each week to a program affectionately known as “Georgigami.”

Create leadership opportunities Particularly for teens, there is tremendous value in opportunities to not just influence programs, but also to share leadership and responsibility. “Youth voice plays a huge role in our community service and leadership programs,” says Gambale. “Members who show an interest in a cause or an issue are encouraged to find a way to tackle it in the community. Members are encouraged to be the leaders, and to shape the discussions and ideas that lead to action and service in the Club.” Torch Club and Keystone Club are two programs that provide important opportunities to incorporate youth voice, says Skaggs. “After all, it is their small-group, peer-led program, so it’s important every teen feels like their voice is heard.”

Serving Teens

Creating committees within these Clubs multiplies the opportunities for teen leadership, says Skaggs. For example, if the group is planning an event, you can form small committees of two to three members, each responsible for an area such as activities and games, logistics or social media promotion. Allow teens to choose the committee that interests them. By working in small groups, all participants get to see their own influence shape a part of the larger project. Teens don’t just want their voices to be heard, says Skaggs; they also want their ideas put into action.

Provide support That doesn’t mean there’s no role for staff or volunteers. In fact, opportunities for youth leadership are unlikely to succeed without adult support. For example, says Gambale, staff often must remind teens not to get discouraged if a program or activity fails. “Teens need to learn to fail and continue working toward their goals,” she says. “When you give them that space, you are offering them a safe place to try new things.” Adults can provide teens with lesson templates, sample project plans or blank timelines. Staff and volunteers might help young people address barriers or challenges as they arise. Most importantly, says Gambale, “We get to play the fun role of cheerleader!” After tornadoes devastated much of Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, Gambale recalls, “we had a passionate Keystone member who wanted to do something. Throughout the school year, she educated the Keystone group about the struggle this community faced to rebuild. This motivated a group of teens to want to travel to Joplin to help the cause.” Gambale secured the necessary approvals from Club leadership and arranged for vans to transport the group. Ten teens did the rest, making the trip to Joplin and helping rebuild three homes.


Youth Voice:

5 TIPS to Set the Right Tone 1. Show Relevance – Explain how Club programs and activities are connected to young people’s goals, interests or values. 2. Allow Criticism – Be empathetic to teens’ negative feedback. Ask how they would change or improve Club programs. 3. Set Rules Together – Work with groups to generate norms and expectations so teens can regulate their own behavior. 4. Monitor Youth Efforts – Don’t take over, but do protect youth from getting off track. 5. Take Time to Reflect – Youth development professionals need time to contemplate what teens tell them and plan their work to support teens’ autonomy.

Ultimately, providing youth a voice in the Club helps them develop a valuable sense of belonging, says Skaggs. “Every youth we serve wants to feel a part of something. When they walk through those blue doors, it’s one of the few places some of them feel valued, where they belong and they don’t feel judged,” she explains. “We have to continue to build their confidence and ability to be leaders. We can only do that if we let their voices be heard.” Michelle McQuiston is director, editorial services for BGCA.






With September being National Preparedness Month, now is the perfect time to review your Boys & Girls Club’s emergency plan and update it as necessary. Regardless of your organization’s size or geographic location, every Club needs to have an up-to-date emergency plan in place. When creating an emergency plan, include events more likely to happen where you live. A Club in the Midwest, for example, will likely take tornados and floods into consideration, while a Club on the West Coast is more likely to be concerned about wildfires, mudslides and earthquakes. Following are essential guidelines to create or enhance your Club’s emergency plan.

Prepare Your Facility • Prominently post an evacuation route and be sure all staff members are familiar with it. Visit for information on preparing an evacuation route. • Identify Club areas to take cover if there isn’t time to evacuate. While every emergency is different, it’s always a good idea to stay low and avoid windows. • Know where first-aid kits are kept. Ideally, there should be several throughout the facility. • Assemble a go-bag, a portable container with items needed to survive for up to 72 hours. • Invite first responders to visit the Club and make recommendations to your plan. The more familiar first responders are with your facility, the better they can respond to an actual emergency.

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get kids ready • Regularly practice emergency drills with youth, including for fires, active shooters, earthquakes and tornados. • Make sure Club members know where all exits and meeting places are. • For members who have special needs, talk with their families about how to prepare them for an emergency.

Train and Inform Staff • Review your emergency plan on a regular basis with staff. • Identify staff and volunteers trained in CPR and first aid; have them practice these skills regularly. • Learn who organizes emergency preparedness in your community. This could be first responders or the local Red Cross. Many communities have multi-disciplinary task forces that respond to emergencies, which your Club is probably welcome to join. • Implement an emergency communications strategy for Club staff, volunteers and members. It’s never too early to prepare for an emergency. The steps you take today to ensure you’re ready to react to a crisis could one day save lives. To learn more about National Preparedness Month including how to involve Club members, visit For additional emergency planning resources including protocols, case studies and checklists, please visit the resource library at Ju’Riese Colon is national vice president of child & club safety for BGCA.

Child & Club Safety


HOW TO MAKE A GO-TO GO-BAG A properly prepared go-bag can save lives. Be sure to check its contents regularly and re-stock as needed, including with the essentials below. Contact information for all members, staff and volunteers Local emergency services contact info First-aid kit Water, about one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food Manual can opener Battery-powered or hand-crank radio with extra batteries Flashlights and extra batteries Numerous batteries of varying voltage Cell phone with chargers Medications Sleeping bags or warm blankets Dust masks to filter contaminated air Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic bags for sanitation Wrench and pliers to turn off utilities Whistles to signal for help Matches in a waterproof container Paper, pencils, books, games and puzzles



columns View From The Potomac

Thinking Nationally,

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Acting Locally

Engaging elected officials at the local level to reinforce the needs of our nation’s youth By Bill Bright and Sage Learn

Over the last few months, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Clubs throughout the country have focused on our new and exciting strategic approach to advocacy in a complex and challenging political environment. One of our strengths has always been an ability to galvanize both sides of the aisle. That will continue to be an asset as we navigate changing policies and programs. Our advocacy approach is positive, aimed at rousing longstanding supporters and cultivating new ones. Service to children and teens is our #1 priority, and we believe that a collaborative, proactive and bipartisan approach is the best path to protect and ultimately expand funding opportunities for local Clubs now and in the years to come. With the upcoming FY2018 budget potentially impacting programs like National Youth Mentoring and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, this approach is as important as ever. In addition to our National Day of Advocacy in February, we’ve engaged in thousands of conversations with elected officials and members of Congress, and sent letters to the president and members of Congress sharing our views on the importance of supporting out-of-school time and the impact that our programs and services

View From The Potomac


have on youth and communities throughout the country. We also held a special targeted Advocacy Day, where we focused on specific members of Congress who have deeper roles in determining the budget. These members will be especially important for our efforts as we work to retain existing funding for Clubs and explore new funding opportunities.

LOCAL LOBBYING Hundreds of incredible Boys & Girls Club organizations have given their time and expertise to support this effort, and the work is just beginning. It is critical that our voices are heard not only in Washington, D.C., but also around the country on a regular basis. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming is a fantastic example of an organization that is leveraging their advocacy efforts locally to make a difference for their community’s kids and teens.

We’ve focused on building relationships with local governmental representatives with a collaborative mindset,” says Ashley Bright, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming. “We focus on what is going on in our state and with local kids, and work together to find ways we can collaboratively meet mutual goals.

The organization has built relationships that have led to opportunities like writing USDA policy standards for the state of Wyoming. They’ve also focused on recruiting elected officials to their boards and leadership counsels. State Senator Drew Perkins has served on the Club’s board for more than 16 years, and former Governor Mike Sullivan serves on their Endowment Foundation Board.

CEO Ashley Bright of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming

Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming continually engages their local mayor and other important public servants to help reinforce the needs of local kids. Over time, these established and nurtured relationships have led to support for their policy recommendations with the Department of Family Services, and many officials have become donors and ambassadors for the organization. Just as Ashley and his team are doing in Wyoming, we will continue to advocate for these issues that matter most to Boys & Girls Clubs. We encourage all local Clubs to continue or begin building relationships that can truly make an impact. Invite your elected officials into the Club. Let them see for themselves just exactly how and why the Club Experience has such an impact on so many young people and their communities. Bill Bright and Sage Learn are senior directors for BGCA’s Office of Government Relations.

"It is critical that our voices are heard not only in Washington, D.C., but also around the country"



Your Path. Your Success. Their Great Future. Welcome to the all-new Spillett Leadership University, a student-centered approach to learning that allows Boys & Girls Club staff, board members and program volunteers to interact with fellow students, instructors and content through the thoughtful integration of online and face-to-face environments.

The newly imagined blended-learning experience features: • Over 1,000 on-demand courses • Simple and intuitive user interface • Increased speed and efficiency • Video training, blogs and web communities • Automatic training and registration notification

Registration for Spillett Leadership University is now open at

Connections Fall 2017  
Connections Fall 2017  

In this issue Celebrating 25 Years of Service to Native Youth Katy Perry Campaigns for Clubs LGBTQ Initiative Promotes Inclusiveness The Val...