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National Youth of the Year winners lead anniversary celebration of premier recognition program


Club Alum’s Alaskan Angling Adventure Creating a Healthier Club Experience Making Safety a Personal Value


WINTE WINTER 2017-18 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 As we close out an eventful 2017, I want to thank all the Boys & Girls Club staff, board members and volunteers for the energy, time and love they give each and every day to improve the lives of kids throughout the country. The success of our Movement is built on the tireless service of local Boys & Girls Clubs. And we enjoyed much success this year. Looking back on the past 12 months, our Movement saw successes and progress in several areas. Great Futures 2025 was affirmed by a robust majority, giving us the strategic direction forward to deliver the high-quality Club Experience that drives positive outcomes in all three priority outcome areas: Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles. New professional development trainings for Club staff were introduced, including Youth Development Institute and Club Directors Academy, with over 1,100 staff attending the latter. We launched “A Place to Become …,” a new brand campaign highlighting the uniquely important role our youth development professionals play in the after-school space. And Average Daily Attendance is forecast to reach 458,000 – up 25,000 from 2016. As for 2018, you can expect more professional development opportunities for staff and board members. We’ll also continue our work to expand Club advocacy efforts at the local and national levels. And as we begin implementing Great Futures 2025, the focus will be on fulfilling its first two priorities: strengthening organizations and increasing program quality.

It’s definitely going to be a busy year. But as I look to the future and see the possibilities for our Clubs and, most importantly, our kids, I’m optimistic. I know we can do this. In the meantime, let’s take a breath, enjoy the holidays and some down time with our families. Once again, thank you for everything you do to help kids thrive and advance this Movement. I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.

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. 17-MKTG-4134 1SSN:0272-6513


CHAIRMAN BGCA Board of Governors

ER 2017-18 connections

FEATURES 2 In Their Own Words


National Youth of the Year finalists on how the Club changed their lives

8 A Fish Story

How a Club kid from Michigan ended up fishing in Alaska to pay for college

12 Making ‘Healthy’ a Habit

Triple Play program gets a makeover

14 Be There

Initiative helps Clubs support grieving youth and build environments for social-emotional development


COLUMNS 6 News and Notes

What’s happening across the Movement

10 President’s Report

BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark

16 Serving Teens

Jocelyn W. advises teens on the college app process

18 Child & Club Safety

A board-led committee can make safety an organizational value


20 View from the Potomac

Why members of Congress need to hear from you!

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

In Their Own Words

National Youth of the Year finalists share how the Boys & Girls Club changed their lives By John Collins

Since 1947, the Youth of the Year program has recognized and celebrated Boys & Girls Club teenagers for dedicated community service, academic excellence, character, and, for some, perseverance through personal adversity to position themselves for long-term success. Each September, six Youth of the Year finalists – selected from thousands of aspiring Club members at local and state levels – gather in Washington, D.C. While each has distinguished themselves among their peers, only one can claim the title of National Youth of the Year, the highest honor bestowed on a Boys & Girls Club member. On Sept. 27, Carlos P. from the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton in New Jersey was named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 70th National Youth of the Year. Carlos will serve as our official teen spokesperson during his oneyear term. He will also receive $145,000 in scholarships, as well as a new car, courtesy of Toyota. Thanks to the generous support of Youth of the Year sponsors Disney, Toyota, University of Phoenix and Taco Bell Foundation, over $1 million in scholarships will be awarded to participants at the state, regional and national levels to further their educations.


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On the following pages, you can learn more about each of the finalists’ backgrounds and the unique impact their Boys & Girls Club had on each of them. The words below are their own, excerpted from their Youth of the Year application essays, with light editing for flow and consistency.



Carlos P.

Kaila L.


HILL AFB YOUTH CENTER, UTAH • President, Keystone Club

• National Honor Society

• Associate’s Degree, 2017

• Clifton Student Union Co-Founder

• University of Utah

• Dartmouth College

My Club Experience

Cycle of Positivity

My time at the Club was unconventional and unique, filled with noise, constant movement and tons of applesauce and apple juice. After school, I’d pick up my little sister at the Club. I would stand toward the back of the classroom, waiting. One day, my sister’s teacher asked what I was doing just standing there. Next thing I knew, I was reading “Charlotte’s Web” to my soon-to-be kids.

I was an introverted girl, who made friends with my awkwardness, and “Hermione Granger hair.” As a sophomore, my family relocated to Utah, and 10 days before my 16th birthday, my dad began a yearlong deployment to Korea. Feeling alone in a new place, I hugged him goodbye at the airport.

I worked in the Early Childhood Department for six years. I thought of myself as caregiver for more than 20 young children. Being the department’s first male volunteer, and soon thereafter employee, let me experience the Club in a different way. Working with my kids, I became more patient and understanding. But it’s what I learned from them that was most important. One of my students was the happiest little girl. Unless you were told she was a “special needs” child, you couldn’t tell. I encouraged her to make new friends and try snacks she wouldn’t normally eat. She, in turn, taught me not to be defined by labels. Today, I know that being an Afro-Caribbean man is a gift, my curly hair is a crown, and my chocolate skin is beautiful. The Club offered my family opportunity and social mobility. My step-dad worked full time; my mother could only hold a part-time job since she needed to take care of my sister and me. The Club allowed my mother to work longer hours and work her way up to assistant manager at Marshall’s. I hope to make both my parents and Club family proud. I cannot thank my

Club enough for providing me with a network of people who always pushed me to dream big and become the man I want to be.

Despite the discomfort of being at a new school and struggles with anxiety, the Youth Center created solidarity in my life. I found friends there who sympathized with my experiences as a military child, and quickly accepted me as a member of their community. I was introduced to advisers who listened, cared about my well-being and consistently told me I could achieve anything as long as I put in the effort. I found a place where my enjoyment of math was valued, allowing me to tutor young children through Power Hour. SMART Girls helped me develop skills to mentor other girls, creating stronger bonds and a community of trust and support. As Keystone Club president, I enhanced my leadership skills by

becoming a better listener, more assertive and more flexible. We partnered with 4-H to teach younger Club members about gliders and drones. Working on projects like this, we interacted with and were examples for children who will grow up to be Keystoners and community leaders when we are gone. In this way, the Club creates a cycle of positivity, teaching teens skills needed to empower ourselves and generations after us.





Keyaunte J.

Sharnae P.

BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF TOLEDO Toledo, Ohio • Honor Roll Student


• First Team AllAcademic Award

• President, Keystone Club

• Grambling State University

• Soprano, H.S. Fine Arts • South Georgia State College

First Day

Those Pearls

My mother dropped me off at the door on my first day. I felt like a whole new world was opening up to me. I was chaperoned by a teen who was very welcoming; he set the tone for an overall great Club experience. My initial stop was the gym, where I met a kid by the name of Derrick. He immediately allowed me to join his team’s game of basketball. This for me embodied all the tenets of what a Boys & Girls Club is about: I felt like I belonged.

The Club was a place of refuge, a place of healing and a place to grow into the person I was created to be. As president of the Keystone Club, I had the honor of creating activities designed to make Club members feel safe and motivated to participate. Keystone Club also gave me opportunities to serve my community and stretch my hands out to those in need. I’ve been blessed to serve in soup kitchens, work in clothing drives, donate food, and share my time and love with the needy of my community.

As a Jr. Staff member, every kid I worked with had an ability that made them unique and essential to the advancement of this world. However, many saw themselves as “just another kid” and were liable to give up on their goals. This kid was me at a point in my life. When things got tough, I would look for an easy way out. I learned it’s important to have that role

model and positive influence who will push you to be your best. When failure is in sight, the Boys & Girls Club is there to uplift youth and show them success is destined in their future through hard work and dedication. Our nation needs to instill in every child that they have the ability to do great things in our world. Once kids realize this, challenges will become stepping stones to success for future generations.


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At the Club, I listened to younger girls share stories of how they struggled with low self-esteem and depression. I decided to create Pearls of Elegance, a program to increase self-esteem in young girls and teach them strategies to manage everyday challenges. One parent told me, “You changed my daughter’s life. She used to be insecure about her weight and hearing aid. Now she says she is beautiful and unique.” Becoming a leader and a role model in that way was fulfilling. It made me feel more connected to the Club and its members.

I can’t simply say I had an amazing experience at the Boys & Girls Club, because I experienced much more. I experienced life-changing moments, I grew and loved and learned more than I could ever have imagined. I have grown into the leader God created me to be, and I owe it all to the Boys & Girls Club of Coffee County Region.



Cassidy L.

Fernanda A.



• President, Keystone Club

• National Honor Society

• Honor Roll Student

• Lettered in Varsity Track

• Northwest Nazarene University (full scholarship)

• Rising High School Senior

Staff, My Greatest Comfort

How far can I go?

The first time I walked into my Boys & Girls Club at eight years old, I knew I was going to love it there. I remember Club members playing air hockey in our gamesroom; crowds of kids gathered around the table cheering. A hockey puck flew off the table and across the room, where more children surrounded a staff member playing guitar and singing songs requested by the young fans. Outside, a Club-wide soccer tournament was going on. Kids giggled as they ran around, because although this was a very serious event, it was filled with fun and the knowledge that the teams were not opponents as much as brothers and sisters playing a game together. These were my first memories, and they were magical.

In 2004, my parents and I came to America to escape the dangerous life Mexico would’ve provided for us. Entering kindergarten with limited English, I became aware of challenges we faced as immigrants. This motivated me to push myself in school. And I started attending the Boys & Girls Club, where I was safe, carefree and could be a kid.

I still remember the first staff who rocked my world. His name was Robert, and he taught me how to play guitar. I was so entranced by the lessons he offered that I saved my money to buy my own pink acoustic guitar. He would teach me to play simple songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” He opened the door to music. Now I play many instruments and love to sing. Music

has become my greatest passion, all due to a staff who took the time to share his knowledge with me. When I was 11, and my brother died from suicide, the staff were my greatest comfort. When I was in foster care the first (and second) time, my friendships with Club members and mentors kept me hopeful. When confusion and hardships were wreaking havoc on my life, the Club always came up alongside me to keep me afloat.

My father soon abandoned us, causing us to seek refuge at a women’s shelter. The pain of his rejection stole my strength. Even with my mom working job after job, we couldn’t make it. Food pantries, soup kitchens and thrift stores became our safe havens. Somehow, after all the pain and dark days, a fire in my heart burned to help families from walking in our shoes. It was a tiny flame I couldn’t fuel, until the Club unit director told me about Keystone. From the

day I started, Keystone fueled the fire within me. I gained a sense of belonging, acceptance and confidence. It taught me what leadership meant and let me put it into action. My mom and I are strong women, but I was always reserved with my feelings, putting on a brave face. The Club was a place where it was ok to cry, to cope with my emotions. This along with my mentors made me stronger, more confident. They came to award assemblies, races, school lunches, celebrated my accomplishments and comforted me in defeat. They helped me look at what college was best for me. I credit the Club for each of my achievements. It gave me hope, helped me pick up the pieces and create something amazing. Despite all the struggles, now my only question is how far can I go?



A Place to Become… This fall, Boys & Girls Clubs of America launched “A Place to Become …,” a new marketing campaign illustrating how everyday moments among Club members and youth development professionals are essential to nurturing young people’s success. The campaign is anchored by a new television advertisement, narrated by renowned actress, singer and Club alum Jennifer Lopez, which highlights the impact of Club programs and showcases the positive mentors and professional staff who inspire kids to great futures. Lopez also narrates a radio spot in which she speaks to the impact that Club mentors made on her life. Customizable campaign collateral to tell your Boys & Girls Club’s stories – including signage, PSAs, print and outdoor ads, photos and digital assets – is available for download now at

Supporting Kids with Disabilities To provide more opportunities for children with disabilities and other complex needs, BGCA and the nonprofit group Kids Included Together (KIT) are teaming up to deliver trainings about inclusion and behavior support at Boys & Girls Clubs. The partnership supports our broader goal to provide all youth with safe, positive and inclusive environments. KIT is the leading authority on childhood disability inclusion training and behavior support, serving youth development organizations in most states and on U.S. military installations worldwide. Through onsite and online trainings, KIT trainers will support BGCA and local Clubs to ensure youth with disabilities and other complex needs can benefit from the Club Experience. For more information, please visit

Dance and Step So you think your Club kids can dance? Then it’s time to step up to the ALL STARS Dance and Step Competition! Funded by Buffalo Wild Wings, participants have three chances to dance or step their way to a brand new sound system for their Club when they submit a video based on the following themes: • Bollywood routine – Submission deadline: March 1 • Step routine – Submission deadline: May 1 • Line Dance routine – Submission deadline: August 1 Get complete details at

Learn More and Submit Your Video Here: © 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of America • 17-POLD-4033

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Purple Up on April 26! Boys & Girls Clubs have been serving military youth in civilian communities for over 25 years. This April during Month of the Military Child, you can recognize and honor military youth when you Purple Up! By wearing a purple item of clothing or accessory, Club staff, members and volunteers can easily and effectively show our support for military youth and their families and the sacrifices they make for all of us.

NE Florida College and Club Collaborate on $2.5M Teen Club The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida and Jacksonville University have announced plans to build a 20,000-squarefoot, $2.5 million facility for teenagers. The Jacksonville University Boys & Girls Club, as it will be called, will have a contemporary warehouse-like design and include a learning center, tech lab, fitness area, art studio, robotics lab, lounge and gym with full basketball court. The community partnership is part of a long-term university plan to revitalize the economically struggling Arlington neighborhood where its campus is located. It focuses on a vacant four-acre parcel of university-owned land, valued at $850,000. The university will lease three of the acres to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida – whose longstanding presence in Arlington includes a traditional Club site and programs at five local schools – at a cost $1 per year for 50 years. As part of the agreement, university students, faculty and staff will serve as mentors to Club youth, with programs in the planning stages for the university to offer its knowledge and resources in several academic areas, including social sciences and health sciences, and disciplines from education to mental health counseling. Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida has raised nearly $1 million for the facility, and expects to reach its financial goal by the end of 2018. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with the teen center to open later that year.

Great Futures Task Force On Sept. 25, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., BGCA hosted the third annual Higher Education Access and Scholarship Task Force. Held in conjunction with National Youth of the Year activities, over 30 thought leaders joined BGCA’s Teens, College and Workforce Development group to discuss ways to better prepare Club teens for postsecondary education and workforce success. Guest speaker Jocelyn W., the outgoing National Youth of the Year, spoke about the Club’s positive impact on her life, including her decision to study journalism at the University of Southern California, where she is a sophomore. She urged Task Force members to determine how their organizations can offer more Club members access to postsecondary and workforce opportunities. Since 2015, the Task Force has secured nearly $10 million in scholarships and tuition slots, and more than 200 on-campus experiences for Club youth at higher-education institutions.


A Fish Story

8 WINTER 2017-18

By John Collins

More than 56 million salmon returned to the rivers and streams that pour into Bristol Bay last summer. The southwest Alaska watershed supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, producing nearly half of the global wild sockeye harvest. Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay, a local coalition, estimates the salmon run generates $500 million in income and 14,000 jobs annually. Buck Gibbons – owner, operator and captain of the 32-foot fishing boat the Stevie K – has fished these waters nearly 40 years. Each June, he leaves his home in Bellingham, Washington, for Bristol Bay’s salmon season, which runs approximately from June 20 to August 1. For years, Gibbons has filled his crew with young men looking for a decent job to pay for college. “To go to Bristol Bay and work on a commercial salmon boat is a big-time opportunity to put thousands of dollars in your pocket for tuition,” he says. But in 2016, he decided to try a different approach. “I’ve got a laundry list of former crewmen who have gone to have very successful careers. With the model proving out, why not try to go a little deeper into humanity?” Specifically, Gibbons wanted to recruit a teen in real need and help them earn money for college. He initially reached out to school officials in Seattle and Tacoma for prospective candidates, with no success. He then expanded his search to Baltimore, with the same results. Then, Gibbons got the lead he needed.

At sea or ashore, Jawanza always seems to have a smile.

Finally, Flint

In October 2016, The Seattle Times profiled Seattle Seahawks player Thomas Rawls, a proud native of Flint, Michigan, one of the poorest cities in the United States. After he’d read the stirring story and watched the accompanying video, Gibbons knew he had a plan. “That’s what led me to Flint,” he says. Last spring, Gibbons contacted the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint and spoke with Stacy Winchester, a program coordinator. He explained his idea and asked if the Club could help him find a suitable applicant. His only conditions: they had to attend a four-year college, and they had to fish Bristol Bay all four summers. Winchester shared the proposal with Amber Miller, the Club’s Director of Programs and Operations, and CEO Tauzzari Robinson. They did their due diligence on Gibbons and the project, verifying it was a legitimate opportunity. Once they determined it was a go, the staff began to identify Club teens they thought could be a fit for the experience and opportunities being presented. “Considering all the factors involved, making a recommendation was no easy task,” says Miller.

"This member had to be multi-faceted, with a plan for the future, the desire to do something new and challenging, and the personality to mesh well in this environment." After discussions on who was best suited for the opportunity, everyone came to the same conclusion: Jawanza Brown. The six-year Club member and high school senior was excelling at Powers Catholic High School in a program set up through the Boys & Girls Club. His record of accomplishments included being named local Youth of the Year, serving as Keystone Club secretary and serving as president of the organization’s Sports Club. When he joined the Club in 2011, Jawanza was an introverted 11-year-old. Though the middle child of six siblings was very quiet, he thrived in the Club environment. In his Youth of the Year speech, he credited the Club for “helping him break out of his shell.” Once the decision was made to offer Jawanza the opportunity, he and his parents were provided with all the details. Jawanza, who would enroll at Saginaw Valley State University in the fall and plans to be a physical therapist, was elated. Soon after, Gibbons traveled to Flint to meet with him.

“Buck came to Flint, spent time with Jawanza, his family, our Club staff and laid everything out for all of us,” recalls Robinson. “He took time to really walk Jawanza and his family through the entire process, and everything it takes to succeed catching fish.” It takes a lot, in fact. In particular, the capacity to work very hard, day and night, on very little sleep. Knowing the challenges that lay ahead, Jawanza spent several weeks preparing for fishing season, often with assistance from Club staff. He altered his sleep schedule, practiced tying a length of rope into knots and got himself into great shape. Two days after graduating from high school, he was on a plane for Alaska.

Life at Sea

Salmon fishing is an exhausting trade. On a typical day, the crew finishes unloading the day’s catch to a tender (a boat that transports the fish to an onshore processing plant) around 10 or 11 p.m., about an hour before night falls in summertime Alaska. Then, they need to re-set the deck, which gets torn apart during unloading, cleaning everything and putting it all away. Now, it’s about midnight, time to cook dinner, eat, clean the galley, put everything away. Then, it’s off to bed for three or four hours. Around 5 a.m., they get up, put out the net and do it all again. Asked why he chose to bust his butt catching salmon in Alaska rather than enjoy one last summer of leisure before heading off to college, Jawanza responds, “I took advantage of this opportunity because I knew it would definitely pay a lot of my tuition and relieve a lot of financial stress on my family.” He pauses, then adds, “And because it’s fishing in Alaska! I mean, who else can say they did that?!” For Gibbons, the experience was no less rewarding. “On a fishing boat, every day is different,” he says. “The fishing is good or it’s bad. The weather is either good or its bad. You’ve got to adjust emotionally to all of that, every day. Jawanza never once gave me a scintilla of negative energy. The kid is nothing like I’ve ever seen before.”

John Collins is senior writer/editor for BGCA.


columns President’s Report

Look Back with Pride, Go Forward with Optimism Reflecting on our successes of the past year and the opportunities ahead of us

Every day, hundreds of thousands of youth come through the doors of local Boys & Girls Clubs, unable to resist what lies behind that blue door: the Club professionals, volunteers and the shared commitment to provide them with hope and opportunity. 2017 was a pivotal year for Boys & Girls Clubs, as groundwork was laid for the Great Futures 2025 Strategic Direction. Over the past two years, local Club professionals and volunteers contributed valuable feedback and guidance to develop the Movement-wide plan. This year, we moved from planning to doing, implementing plans to drive the plan’s four strategic initiatives to: strengthen organizations, increase program quality, advocate for youth development and reach more youth. If our 2025 vision is ambitious – To provide a worldclass Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle – it’s also essential for the success of young Americans. Providing an environment where young people feel safe is a major part of a high-quality Club Experience, and our absolute #1 priority. To enhance this aspect of program quality, we expanded our Child & Club Safety team, published a customizable Club Emergency Response Plan and enriched safety-related membership requirements for the Movement in 2017.

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

Responding to feedback for more professional development opportunities, we created Youth Development Institutes, teen membership training, and the Youth Development Toolbox best-practice app to support this goal and strengthen every organization. We also launched Club Directors Academy, helping key staff develop effective leadership practices and create ongoing improvement plans to enhance the Club Experience. I’m pleased to say we trained more than 1,100 Club professionals this year, and are preparing to train over 1,000 more directors in 2018. We continued to strengthen our brand equity this year, highlighting the importance of youth development professionals with the launch of our new marketing campaign, “A Place to Become.” TV, radio and collateral were developed to support the campaign and are available to local markets on

YOUTH OF THE YEAR 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of our Youth of the Year program. As future leaders of their communities, these teens represent the Great Futures we’re building for the youth we serve. Congratulations to regional finalists Cassidy, Fernanda, Sharnae and Keyaunte, National Military Youth of the Year, Kaila, and the 2017-18 National Youth of the Year, Carlos. (Turn to page 2 for Youth of the Year coverage.) We also launched My.Future (, the safe, fun, mobile-friendly social platform where members can access about 125 program activities from their own devices, connect with friends, and earn recognition and rewards. Tools like My.Future are an important

At the 2017 Regional Conferences, I asked Club leaders to review the compelling data and best-practices we shared and ask themselves: What does a high-quality Club Experience look like in my organization? As quality will differ, multiple assessment processes and other tools are in place to help each Club define what quality looks like for them.

way youth can engage in out-of-school-time STEM activities and cultivate skills for college and the 21st century workforce. My.Future is funded by Comcast NBCUniversal and other partners. We can point to many achievements the past 12 months. But I’m particularly proud with how our Movement rallied in times of crisis. Clubs across the country mobilized to bring relief to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and Clubs in Northern California took similar actions to serve communities impacted by wildfires. Staff members came together to reopen Clubs in many of these hard-hit areas and provide shelter, food and a safe place where youth could find respite from the chaos around them. We will continue to help repair the damage left behind.

To ensure trained highly capable Club staff at all levels, we will invest in state-of-the-art training. We’ll continue efforts to strengthen organizational capacity, using programming and innovative operating models to improve the Club Experience and expand our reach. Finally, a concentration on leveraging what makes us unique: our data, footprints in each congressional district, and networks of thousands of local and national volunteers to build awareness of the importance of out-of-school time and youth development to elected officials. Through all of this, we will reach and serve more children and teens.

A LOOK AHEAD: 2018 2018 will be an exciting year for our Movement. The Great Futures 2025 strategic direction will drive our focus across the country. We’ll continue efforts to improve program quality, which is mission-critical to our vision of the high-quality Club Experience.

Look back with pride and forward with optimism. We did incredible work and made strong progress this year. Your collaboration, commitment and counsel will empower us to create Great Futures for all youth, especially those who need us most. I thank you for your service, and wish you and your families Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year.


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©2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of America • 3181-17

Collateral for My.Future, Club Director's Academy and Crisis Communication



‘HEALTHY’ A HABIT After a dozen years helping Club kids choose healthier lifestyles, Triple Play is getting a makeover of its own. By Wayne B. Moss Eleven-year-old La’Marion from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo in Ohio was skeptical about the whole idea of adopting a healthy lifestyle, in part, because he didn’t have a good understanding of nutrition. But when his Club started running Triple Play, La’Marion learned about healthy eating. Before long, he was asking for fruit instead of less nutritious snacks. Now, La’Marion has even become the one to suggest new healthy recipes to try in the Club. Since 2005, Clubs implementing Triple Play have helped millions of young people like La’Marion get active, make smart food choices and build healthy relationships. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s first comprehensive health and wellness program, Triple Play was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is supported by founding partner, The Coca-Cola Company, and Anthem Foundation. Twelve years later, Triple Play has had a huge impact nationwide. Many organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Nowata in Oklahoma have adopted an entirely new health and wellness paradigm. “Triple Play has really changed our Club,” says Chief Executive Officer Treasure Standeford. “It’s not just a program. It’s become part of what we do.” In 2008, nonprofit research group Youth Development Strategies Inc. evaluated Triple Play’s effectiveness in improving health outcomes among 2,242 youth attending 30 Boys & Girls Clubs across an 18-month study period. The results showed Triple Play: • Improves young people’s nutrition knowledge, particularly in the area of portion control • Benefits youth who already eat healthily, as well as those with less healthy eating habits • Increases the amount of time youth spend engaged in physical activities

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In 2018, Triple Play is getting a complete makeover, with updates to all three of the program’s components: Daily Challenges (physical activity), Healthy Habits (nutrition) and Social Recreation. The gamesroom – always a place where members are excited to spend time – gets new focus as a space for helping kids develop critical social and emotional skills. Before Triple Play, “the gamesroom could sometimes become filled with a large amount of kids, many of them without a structured program to participate in,” says Teen Director Sean Mulligan of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Venice in California. It became a completely new environment, though, says Mulligan, when his Club began running new Triple Play activities designed for the gamesroom. “The moods and attitudes of members changed pretty dramatically,” he explains. “Rather than having to deal with arguments over pool games or air hockey games, we were running structured activities and seeing members interact with other members they had never really gotten a chance to know before. Quieter or shyer members were becoming much more extroverted and social.”


The new Healthy Habits is a complete curriculum designed to help members do more than just learn about nutrition. Rather, activities frame eating habits as important choices and empower participants to make healthy selections, in part by introducing them to a range of nutritious food options. Youth learn how they can make their own decisions about the way they eat. The new curriculum does a better job of breaking down the important concepts, helping even younger members to understand better, says Standeford from the Nowata Club. And the activities have proven quite appealing, she says. “Before we conduct the lessons, we have a staff meeting with the program and unit directors and staff from the kitchen to do the activities.” That way, Club adults get to experience them just as members will. “You talk about fun!” says Standeford. “Our grownups are playing like kids.”


Research shows that young people with better-developed motor skills are more likely to be physically active, and physically active youth are more likely to become physically active adults. But many young people don’t possess even the basic movement skills or the levels of fitness they need to feel comfortable being physically active. As health and fitness experts around the world grapple with this issue, they have developed a new conceptual framework: physical literacy. Physical literacy is the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life. In the new Daily Challenges, activities are intentionally designed to help youth develop basic movement skills, such as balance, coordination, running and jumping. With a wide variety of movement skills, trying a wide variety of activities becomes easier, and – with the encouragement of Club staff, coaches and peers – members develop both greater ability and greater confidence. Enjoying positive experiences with sports and fitness helps youth develop the third critical component of physical literacy: the desire to be physically active throughout their lives. La’Marion and his fellow Club members across the nation are sure to have even more fun learning how to choose healthy, active lifestyles with the new Triple Play, which will be released Movement-wide in spring 2018.

Three Ways to Create a Healthier Club Experience 1. Infuse play breaks into your schedule, in all program areas, throughout the Club day. Play breaks are fiveminute bursts of games and dance moves designed to increase physical activity, which help members develop healthy lifestyles and enjoy a high-quality Club Experience. 2. Develop a nutrition policy outlining the types of foods served in all Club-related functions (even board meetings). As you develop it, get input from members, staff and the board. 3. Incorporate reflection into all activities. Reflection questions encourage members to think about how they can apply what they have observed, experienced and learned from the group activity to their own lives. Reflection also gives youth an appropriate venue for providing feedback to adults. That’s critical for letting staff know how to adjust an activity or how it’s delivered to best support members’ development and understanding. Wayne B. Moss is senior director, sports, fitness & recreation for BGCA. CONNECTIONS 13

Initiative helps Clubs support grieving youth and build environments for social-emotional development By Morgan Mabry Kendra Calhoun knows all too well how loss and trauma can affect young people. There is perhaps no place in the United States harder hit by the opioid epidemic than Eastern Kentucky, where Calhoun is director of the Cawood Ledford Unit of the Harlan County Boys & Girls Club. In 2011, before the crisis was making national headlines, 13 members of the Harlan County organization lost parents to overdose deaths in one winter. While nothing can erase the effects of such a trauma on a young person, Calhoun knows the difference that caring staff, a supportive Club environment and professional counseling services can make. As a participant in the initiative Be There, Calhoun organized her Club’s second annual Children’s Grief Awareness Month, including activities for youth and a Family Night component to provide parents with resources and guidance to communicate with and support grieving youth. Calhoun also secured a partnership with a local counseling practice to provide professional counseling and support to distraught youth and their families. For millions of kids, Boys & Girls Club youth development professionals like Calhoun are anchors of support in the face of adversity. Accordingly, it’s critically important they be equipped with the right tools to guide young people during daunting times. In a year marked by natural disasters, mass shootings, violent protests and tragedies, the need to help Club youth process trauma seems obvious. But the truth is, Clubs have long been a place for kids and teens to find comfort and guidance in a safe, welcoming space. 14

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That’s why with the generous support of a $3 million New York Life grant, Boys & Girls Clubs of America joined with the National Alliance for Grieving Children and Harvard’s PEAR Institute: Partnership in Education and Resilience, to create Be There, an initiative to provide Clubs like Harlan County with essential resources and facilitate partnerships to support grieving Club members.

Supporting the Whole Child

Be There is a comprehensive approach to help Clubs build supportive relationships and integrate best practices to support youth experiencing grief and other major life-altering losses. Be There provides training, resources and strategies that help Clubs increase capacity to support bereaved youth, staff and families. These trainings and resources can help Club staff recognize signs of grieving in young people and provide them with skills and strategies to respond to members’ needs. For example, Club professionals might coach youth to manage and learn from ongoing emotional experiences by teaching them mindful breathing practices to use if they’re feeling angry. Staff can also make the Club a safe place for youth to share stories and emotions by incorporating opportunities for reflection and discussion at the end of program activities. The Be There initiative also helps Clubs make local contacts and form partnerships with organizations that can provide professional counseling services to youth and families. The Boys & Girls Club of the Alma Area in Arkansas, for example, was able to form

partnerships with John Brown University and a community counseling and family therapy firm. “I knew there was a hole in our programming, but I did not have the tools or skills to fix it,” says CEO Elaina Damante. “We are now taking care of the entire child. I am so appreciative for the chance to help these children become stronger.” Be There also focuses on the social-emotional development of all Club members. Participating Clubs implement a curriculum developed by the PEAR Institute that helps children and teens develop skills to build supportive peer relationships and increase resiliency – whether they’re dealing with a tragedy or life’s everyday challenges. Perhaps the best description of the initiative came from one young participant, who wrote, “It has helped me with all the difficulties I have. At school, I get frustrated and mad, but at the Club we do stretches and cool-down activities to help me manage my emotions. I use a glitter cooling-down jar to help calm my energy. All the stuff we do helps me forget about the things that made me sad, angry and frustrated.”

Check out for the following resources: • Be There toolkit • Be There podcast series • More grief and bereavement resources For skill development activities, please download Social Emotional Development Throughout the Club Day from

Why Social-Emotional Development?

For over 150 years, Clubs have addressed the physical, cognitive, social and emotional needs of young people. This “whole-child” approach is what makes Clubs different from other youth-serving organizations. Recent research and works such as Paul Tough’s “How Children Succeed” put forth the idea that children who can build strong social-emotional skills, or resilience, are better prepared to cope with challenges and thrive in today’s world. All young people, grieving or not, benefit from opportunities for social-emotional development. As shown by the achievements of Clubs that have implemented Be There, adding dedicated time to the Club day to focus on social and emotional skills gives members a daily opportunity to practice and build these skills in a safe space, allowing them to build resiliency. The skills they’re learning are necessary for navigating social environments with others. They’re also critical to achieving academic success, building character and succeeding in the workplace. BGCA’s approach to social-emotional development, which is illustrated by the Be There initiative, is three-fold: provide training to increase staff capacity to deliver high-quality social-emotional development experiences, identify environment-building practices and partnerships, and integrate skill-development opportunities across all national programs and initiatives. Because every kid deserves a Club that will Be There for them. Morgan Mabry is director, gender and wellbeing, for BGCA.



A Guide to College By Jocelyn W.

A straight-talking to-do list for Club teens about the col lege application process by ou r 2016-17 National Youth of the Year Although the college application process may seem daunting, it is actually not as bad as you may think. Look at this as an opportunity to really get to know yourself, because, at the end of it, you will grow so much and be headed off to the next stage of your life. As stressful as everyone makes this out to be, it really isn’t that bad. You got this! Get Organized Use whatever works for you: hand-written, electronic or both. I did both because I liked to journal my essays and brainstorm in a moleskin journal, but I would keep all finished files and other information in a Google Drive folder. This was because it was easy to share with others, and the application process is completely digital. Brainstorm where you see yourself for the next four years. I recommend sitting down and journaling your answers. It’s okay to take a week and really meditate on this. It is important to go into the application process knowing a little bit about what you like. Here are some things to consider:

• What are you passionate about? What do you spend most of your time doing?

• Where do you want to be? Big city or small? Rural campus or suburban?

• What size school do you feel like you’d thrive in? Big, small, online?

• How much can your parents contribute to tuition? • How much work are you going to put in to get scholarships and grants?


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List your top colleges. Your list may change along the way and that is totally OK! I recommend settling on approximately six to 10 schools, categorized into three areas:

• Safety schools are those where your academic credentials (grades, SAT or ACT scores, class rank) exceed the school’s range for the average first-year student, and you are certain you will be admitted. Make sure there is at least one safety school you know your family can afford or where you can count on receiving substantial financial aid.

• Target schools are colleges where your academic credentials fall well within the acceptance bracket. There are no guarantees, but it’s not unreasonable to expect to be accepted to several of your target schools.

• Reach schools are those you really want to attend, if getting in and paying weren’t issues. Your academic credentials fall in the lower end, or even below, their average acceptances. These schools seem like a long shot, but may still be a possibility. And please, please, please love all the places you’re applying! Trust me. That will make the whole process much easier. Then run your choices by a counselor, teacher, academic adviser or parent. Research every school. You are going to be living there, so make sure you love it. Check the school’s website and social media accounts. Ask alumni (current students especially!) about their experiences at the school. Take advantage of opportunities to talk to college reps in your area, too, and follow up via email after meeting them. Here are a few more things to consider about a potential college: • Will it help you achieve specific goals? • Are class sizes what you want? • Is it the right distance from home?

Check It It may seem like there are so many things to do. But if you complete everything on the checklist below you’ll be fine.

✔ Do your research. (See above!) ✔ Take tests. When applying to colleges, you will need to take the SAT and/or ACT. It is also good (and required by some schools) to take AP and SAT Subject II tests. Take tests on topics you know well and presumably do well on. All these tests take place throughout the year. Check when test dates are and lock them into your schedule. There is a fee to take each test, though fee waivers are available to eligible students.

✔ Get recommendations. Colleges will ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, a counselor, and will likely give you the option of including one from a coach or mentor. Make sure that potential recommenders know you well enough to write about you, and to ask them well in advance of recommendation submission deadlines.

✔ Prepare your essays. Although essays get a bad rap, I think this is one of the best parts about the application process. Even if you are not a writer, it gives you an opportunity to really meditate on and evaluate who you are as a person. The number of essays you write vary by school. Go into this with a positive mentality. Always give yourself enough time to write, proofread, get feedback and revise before submitting. I know that this hasn’t covered everything (especially the “What’s next when I get to college?” part). So, I plan to hold a few webinars on specific topics and publish another guide for once you’re in college. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at Thank you so much for reading!

• Can you handle the weather?

Jocelyn is an alum of the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley in Milpitas, California, which she attended for over 10 years. Now a second-year student at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Jocelyn recently completed an internship with the ABC Television Network in Los Angeles.



y a W e h t Leading

A board-led committee can make Club safety an organizational and personal value By Ju’Riese Colon Throughout our Movement, Boys & Girls Clubs have been working diligently to strengthen their commitment to keep every kid safe. This includes implementing new policies, adjusting practices when needed, and engaging new partners in the interest of developing the safest possible facilities. All of these actions are essential and laudable. But to make them all work together and create a true culture of safety requires the involvement of an entire Boys & Girls Club organization ‌ in particular, its board members.


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Experience has shown that a safety committee can reduce incidents, cut costs, and foster a positive culture of safety. A board can play an integral role. It has the authority to ensure a Club’s safety strategy gets the proper attention and consideration it needs. It can also raise safety concerns to the governance level, if needed. This is why so many Boys & Girls Clubs are taking steps to strengthen their commitment to safety by creating board-led committees that focus on safety.

Child & Club Safety

Establishing a board-led safety committee doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it’s probably easier than you think. As with your board of directors, a safety committee should consist of volunteer leaders who recognize the inherent value a safe facility signifies to a Club and its community. Your safety committee nominees should have passion, influence and be prepared to become fully engaged with the task before them. Choose the Best Candidates Who are the archetypal candidates for a board safety committee? Most consist of people who are familiar with local safety standards. This includes, but is not limited to, first responders, facilities managers, attorneys, insurance providers, educators, and mental health professionals. Some of these individuals are probably already serving on your board.


A committee makes safety not only a priority but a value. Priorities may change, values remain constant.

A committee made of people with the right skill-sets can instill organization-wide accountability that can help ensure a Club is equipped to ensure the safety of anyone who enters a facility. The very presence of such a committee makes safety not only a priority, but an organizational and personal value. Remember, while priorities may change, values remain constant. For more information on how to establish a safety committee on your Boys & Girls Clubs board, please visit and download the Safety Committee Toolkit.

Every safety committee functions a bit differently. That said, it’s important to identify commitments and core activities for every committee member. Areas of focus for a safety committee typically include the following: Online safety assessment. Reviewing child safety assessment outcomes is a great place for a new safety committee to begin. Results will show what areas the Club is doing well with, as well as improvements that can be made. Generating a culture of safety calls for an impartial evaluation of operations – policies, programs, people, and property – to ensure a high standard of care is in place. Property safety. A committee should regularly inspect the conditions of Club buildings, grounds, equipment and vehicles to ensure they are free of hazardous conditions. Policy review. While policies don’t necessarily need to be updated annually, they should be reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to meet your organization’s needs and standards. Planning. In the area of general safety planning, a committee should review an organization’s safety policies and procedures, inspect Club operations for unsafe practices or activities, and coordinate with local safety, emergency and rescue agencies.

Ju’Riese Colon is National Vice President of Child & Club Safety for BGCA.


columns View From The Potomac

Advocacy is Imperative Why members of Congress need to hear from you!

20 WINTER 2017-18

By Sage Learn

We all watch the news and know that these are challenging times for government funding. With potential cuts to federal funding support of Boys & Girls Clubs and, consequently, the millions of children and teens we serve every day, advocacy is especially important. In fact, it’s safe to say that there has never been a more critical time to advocate for federal funding, as we are seeing proposed cuts throughout government spending. Despite the unpredictable climate, we have also had success in the process of protecting funding that supports key Boys & Girls Club programs, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and the Youth Mentoring Program funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (part of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs). The above mentioned successes would not have been possible without the support of you, our local Clubs. Your grassroots efforts, strategic engagement, and targeted activations throughout the year were indispensable in protecting funding that supports our kids. We thank all of you who joined Boys & Girls Clubs of America for our National Day of Advocacy

View From The Potomac








National Day of Advocacy

in February and Targeted Day of Advocacy in June, hosted Club visits by elected officials, met with municipal and state officials, and sent letters and emails to government leaders. Your voice was heard. This year, we had 349 meetings in Washington, D.C., between Targeted Hill Day and the National Day of Advocacy, with 198 Club leaders participating. We also saw 180 government officials visited Clubs in 2017. Your voice was heard. However, our advocacy efforts are only beginning. Every year, we must make a case for our youth. As a Movement, we need to stay focused on preserving and protecting programs and funding that help Boys & Girls Clubs serve more youth. At the same time, we must stay engaged with key policymakers to build and uphold meaningful relationships that can move our priorities to the top of the policy agenda. That means we need all of you to continue to elevate the Club voice with policymakers. As a Movement, we need to stay focused on preserving and protecting programs and funding that help Clubs serve more youth, especially those who need us most.

WHAT YOU CAN DO IN 2018 One of the best ways to ensure your voice is heard is to join us for the 2018 National Day of Advocacy March 6-7 in Washington, D.C. The two-day event provides Boys & Girls Clubs with the platform to share with Congressional leaders the critical impact your Club is making on the kids your community. It allows us to demonstrate to Congress why Boys & Girls Clubs are the nation’s best partner to prepare youth to succeed in college or professionally.

It is powerful when Clubs take to the Hill together with the same message, then join an evening reception where Congressional members and staff can socialize with Club leaders and ask questions. As constituents from across the country, your engagement is an important factor in bringing a divided Washington together and Club CEOs, board members and youth are critical to making the case of support for our national Movement. We will provide trainings and webinars leading up to the day to help provide all the tools you will need. Stoney E. Hays, CEO for the Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, recently shared explained why attending National Day of Advocacy is an important trip to make. “We participate because our legislators will listen to their constituents and the impact the Club has on communities they serve. Now is the time to solidify our public/private partnerships and leverage local businesses and stakeholders to realize the return on investment that Boys & Girls Club programs have for school-age youth and families.” Once again, we look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C., March 6-7, for our National Day of Advocacy. This is an excellent opportunity to share our success stories and elevate our policy priorities as we raise our collective voice to advocate for the nation's children and teens. Sage Learn is Senior Director of Government Relations for BGCA.





NATIONAL CONFERENCE May 2-4, 2018 | Hyatt Manchester

REGISTER TODAY! Join Boys & Girls Club professionals, board volunteers and supporters from across the nation for the annual gathering of our Movement! HIGHLIGHTS TO INCLUDE: Major Metro Forum Alumni Hall of Fame Ceremony & Reception Conference Finale Dinner (seating is limited)

Register now at

Connections Winter 2017 18  

National Youth of the Year Winners’ Firsthand Success Stories Club Alum’s Alaska Adventure Pays for College Triple Play Update Focuses on P...

Connections Winter 2017 18  

National Youth of the Year Winners’ Firsthand Success Stories Club Alum’s Alaska Adventure Pays for College Triple Play Update Focuses on P...