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Boys & Girls Clubs of America Creating New Pathways to Higher Education Through Partnership

December 2013 $3.99

Building New Partnerships, Creating New Pathways The evolution of Boys & Girls Clubs of America means greater emphasis on higher education partnerships that create pathways from high school to college to workforce By Janet Edwards 30

December 2013

[ Focus: Boys & Girls Clubs of America ]

Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the longstanding organization best known for providing a safe, after-school space for children in low-income neighborhoods, is making new strides toward ensuring the roughly 4 million youth the Clubs serve are prepared for the future.


s part of this effort, the organization has enhanced its emphasis on posthigh school success by seeking innovative partnerships with colleges and universities, an effort that will ultimately infuse the nation’s workforce with high-quality, diverse talent. “We’ve evolved tremendously to increase our focus on out-ofschool time, expanding the learning opportunities for kids in many dimensions and expanding their access to experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have,” says Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Clark will begin his third year of leadership in January. He came to the Atlanta headquarters of BGCA after serving eight years in the top administrative role at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, one of the largest local affiliates. “If you look at the after-school and out-of-school time space, the evidence and research is clear: if done correctly, we can make a difference, and kids can perform better academically and better in life through the work that we do,” Clark says. “We have alumni in all walks of life—prominent business people, government, military, entertainment, arts, sports, entrepreneurs—who credit Boys & Girls Clubs with changing their life by helping them understand they

can do anything they want to do and giving them the support to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.” Boys & Girls Club programs, services, and mentoring efforts are offered to all youth, ages 6 to 18. All activities emphasize three fundamental pillars of success, Clark says. “It’s about education. It’s about living a healthy lifestyle. It’s about good character and citizenship.” The BGCA model features a professional paid staff of youth development workers, augmented by volunteers. “We have that model to provide consistency and continuity and stability in kids’ lives so that when they’re coming into a Boys & Girls Club they’re seeing the same person day in and day out,” Clark says. Nationwide, Boys & Girls Clubs employ 52,000 professional staff and work with 235,000 volunteers. With 4,000 locations, ranging from rural to urban areas, in the United States and on U.S. military installations around the world, the BGCA network includes about 200 Clubs on Native American lands and 300 affiliates that meet in public housing facilities. In addition, some 1,400 Clubs operate in school buildings. Developing Partnerships in Higher Education Making sure that young people are prepared for the future is a BGCA

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

priority, Clark says, and while other avenues are not discounted, the organization concentrates its efforts on creating a pathway to higher education. “We’ve sharpened our focus on academic success, we’ve sharpened our focus on helping kids have a plan for the future, we’ve sharpened that pipeline towards higher education,” Clark says. To help advance this agenda, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is bringing in thought leaders and innovators from the higher education trenches, he says, including Damon Williams, PhD. Williams, who left his post last August as vice provost and chief diversity officer at University of WisconsinMadison, serves as senior vice president for programs, training, and youth development with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “That’s a reflection of where we’re headed. We’ve hired other individuals as well to help us fulfill this vision,” Clark says. “We’ve brought in others from local Clubs and other experts from education to help us build these programs and our strategies to help us deliver on our vision.” Boys & Girls Clubs serves a diverse population: 64 percent of its members come from economically vulnerable backgrounds, 69 percent are from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups, and many are first-generation


Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, meets with a young Metro Atlanta Club member

“We have emphasis on making sure that we build a diverse workforce of the future—and obviously that starts today. We can’t wait.”


December 2013

college students. The organization has developed specific programs, such as minority-male mentoring and Latino outreach, but developing collaborations in higher education is also a vital component in achieving a level playing field for college access and success, Clark says. “We need to be more vigilant at seeking out partnerships with universities and colleges to benefit youth that otherwise wouldn’t have this opportunity,” Clark says. “And we need to help universities and employers increase their diversity and have Boys & Girls Club members and alumni be part of that work population.” Creating those partnerships also serves to provide a seamless transition from Boys & Girls Clubs to high school graduation to higher education, he says. “To that end, we’ve developed relationships with colleges and universities to link and collaborate on helping kids coming from homes where there’s no tradition of higher education, where there’s no opportunity for higher education. Linking with universities and colleges helps to overcome these obstacles that for many others are second nature, such as college applications, references, tuition assistance, grants, and scholarships. All

of these seem like foreign languages to kids that don’t experience or have exposure to them,” Clark says. The organization has rolled out new pre-college access programs in recent years, with more to come, Clark says. Three major programs include Diplomas to Degrees (or D2D), Be Ready, and Be Great: Graduate. In addition to the fact that Club alumni have reported graduating from high school at higher rates than their peer populations, Clark says the programs have proven successful in regard to college enrollment. “We see it in our Youth of the Year program. Our finalists this year are going to Harvard, Stanford, Penn State, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, Michigan, Louisville, and the University of Arizona—so we know that our strategy works. It’s a matter of creating a more solidified intentional path so kids can be successful,” he says. New partnerships with universities and colleges are forming at a fast pace across the country, he says. BGCA Partnership with Marquette University The partnership between Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., and Boys & Girls Clubs of America has evolved over the past 15 years and is still evolving, says Anne Deahl, associate vice provost for academic support programs and retention. The University has become more active in several areas, not just funding scholarships, she says. “Given the disparity in collegegoing rates for students of certain socio-economic status and race— coupled with the fact that the national population is changing, and that the majority student population is going to shrink while the African American and Latino population is growing—how do we ensure underrepresented populations get to college?” Deahl asks. One Marquette initiative that supports the partnership with BGCA, the Marquette Urban Scholars Program, offers wraparound support for students during the entire four-year college experience; it also

facilitates their transition to college by providing academic and social supports, she says. Up to 10 student participants are selected each year based on academic merit and financial need. Boys & Girls Club students are preferenced in the Urban Scholars Program awarding process. Marquette takes a “scaffolded” approach in working with local Club members and others in pre-college programs, Deahl says, because “we want to make sure we’re addressing the needs of the students where they are. [Along the way,] we want to get them thinking about college. The important thing is for them to make college a goal,” Deahl says. In working with high school freshmen, Marquette wants to get students thinking about college, she says. The next step is helping them prepare for standardized tests and then speaking with students and parents about how to apply for financial aid and identify available resources. By the time they’re seniors, Marquette is talking about how to apply to college and what the institution has to offer college students. Marquette is often invited to visit Clubs to teach skills, not just recruit students, Deahl says. “We present workshops on how to write essays, apply for financial aid, and why it’s important to go to college.” “Many students have the aptitude, but they haven’t had the support structures to encourage them or the benefit of all the educational training they need. Simply saying, ‘You can do this,’ isn’t enough—we need to help prepare them,” Deahl says. “This is critical and going to be more critical in the future.” Along with a shared vision of creating responsible citizens and helping them develop their full potential, partnerships like the one with Boys & Girls Clubs of America are important, says Deahl, “because the more we can eliminate duplication, have better information about what each other is doing, and have more access to capital, the more effective we can be.” Jim Clark hopes to see more partnership programs like Urban

Marquette Urban Scholars Program

Scholars gain a foothold at other colleges and universities. “The call to action for higher education would be to reach out to your local Club leadership and begin exploring ways you can create a strategic partnership and leverage the unique strengths of the university or college and the unique community strengths of the Clubs in your community,” Clark says. Developing Diverse Voices, Workforce Talent Boys & Girls Clubs is uniquely positioned to help develop strong civic and corporate talent and voices that represent an increasingly diverse America, Clark says. “The key to a promising future for our nation is having strong, diverse leaders in all walks of life,” says Clark. “When we think about that, developing that future diverse leadership is absolutely critical. We’re driving towards that in everything that we do. Whether it’s at the national staff or at local staffs, we have emphasis on making sure that we build a diverse

workforce of the future—and obviously that starts today. We can’t wait.” The opportunity for members to build cultural competency skills is also intrinsic to BGCA programs, Clark says. “We refuse no one. All kids are welcome at Boys & Girls Clubs. In many ways, we’re the incubator to equal access and inclusiveness,” he says. “We work with kids on key skills, on conflict resolution. We train kids and staff around diversity and inclusion and make sure there’s an understanding of and respect for all opinions. When it comes to good character, that’s what we’re talking about for kids and for staff.” Revitalizing the BGCA Vision Along with a focus on higher education, Clark has championed noncognitive or “soft” skills development and emphasized a positive approach in moving forward. “We’ve worked hard in the last couple of years to create a vision of optimism. Although the challenges and statistics we face in this country for kids are very disturbing today, we


[ moreINSIGHT ] Identifying key, innovative partnerships with colleges and universities is an ongoing focus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Following are ways your campus can become involved:

The BGCA Call to Action • Reach out to your local Boys & Girls Club leadership and explore ways you can create a strategic partnership between your institution and your local Club. • Explore ways to get your students, faculty, and staff involved as tutors, mentors, and role models in Clubs.

Jim Clark, with members of the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford, Conn.

need to convey a sense of optimism around being a catalyst to change those statistics so kids do have an opportunity to live a better life and to have a great future,” Clark says. The research is clear that as little as an hour of focused academic instruction after school can lead to statistically and significantly increased scores in math and reading, Clark says. And there are other facts that keep Clark focused: “If kids aren’t reading at a third-grade level by the end of third grade, they are four times as likely to not graduate from high school,” he says. “We know that kids can start falling off track by first and second grade so that’s why we begin with kids in early elementary—ages five, six, seven, eight—so that we can keep them on track, especially during these critical transition periods.” Those important transition periods include summers, when youth from under-resourced communities or economically challenged households are at a greater risk for loss of learning than kids from middle-income families and higher, Clark says. “They’re not receiving the enrichment and other experiences that other kids are,” he says. One BGCA goal is to fortify the summer period in a fun way: “It’s not by creating more intense curriculum but 34

December 2013

rather, providing high-yield activities where kids have fun and learn and have enriching experiences so they don’t fall back,” Clark says. An emphasis on outcome-driven programs that provide clear goals and assessments and new leadership training programs for professional staff members are also hallmarks of Clark’s leadership. “We’ve been much more intentional and focused on setting goals and putting in the system to measure what the results are and what the indicators are in terms of success in kids’ lives,” he says. “Do they have high expectations? How do they compare to the national statistics around health and use of substances and things like this?” The evolution of the organization reflects an ongoing commitment to provide high quality, relevant programs in a safe, reliable environment, Clark says. “Our vision is simple: to ensure that all children who come through our doors are on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future,” he says. “Our mission is to focus on kids who need us most in America and to make sure that they become productive, caring, responsible adults in life.”● Janet Edwards is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.

• Create partnerships leveraging the unique research, teaching, training, and evaluation capacity of faculty and staff to create a more evidencedbased approach to impacting young people and creating value in Clubs. • Invite local Clubs to spend time on campus, exposing children, tweens, and teens to the possibilities of higher education; make a special effort to recruit Club youth into summer campus and special precollege programs that emphasize college readiness. • Get your world-class faculty involved as workshop leaders who assist Club leaders with important topics like fundraising, leadership succession, hiring, change management, board governance, and professional development. • Create "tiger teams" to visit a Club in the course of a day or more to complete a painting, refurbish a room, clean the grounds, or perform other projects that require hands-on energy and leave a lasting impression. • Make a donation to your local Club, whether financial, repurposed technology, or other resources that can enhance the capacity of Clubs to serve kids. • Explore ways to host special community events in collaboration with Clubs: support local food banks; plan book and clothing drives to enhance the lives of vulnerable youth and family; celebrate the holiday season with dedicated toy drives.

Find out more about BGCA at

[ Focus: Boys & Girls Clubs of America ]

New Program Helps Create ‘Great Futures’ A partnership between the University of Washington Tacoma and the Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound serves as a model for other collaborations By Janet Edwards


edric Howard, EdD, was once a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia. At the relatively young age of 34, he became vice chancellor for student and enrollment services at the University of Washington Tacoma, a position he still holds. Two years ago, Mark Starnes, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound, asked Howard how they could learn from his personal success to benefit youth involved in the local BGCA affiliate. “I told him I had a mentor at Boys & Girls Clubs that got me through the process,” Howard says. “And the nugget that he used to get me out of the inner city of Macon, Georgia, was the fact that if I got accepted into a college he’d find a way to get me funding.” In the course of the discussion, which took place during a fundraiser about developing pathways for inner city youth to consider post-secondary options, the two of them shared ideas about how such a promise might be delivered today. That question resulted in the Great Futures Fund, a partnership launched in 2012 by the University of Washington Tacoma and the South Puget Sound BGCA affiliate. The partnership makes holistic sense, Howard says, because BGCA deals with young children up to age 18, and the University works with young adults 18 years and older. The goal, Howard

says, was to “develop a local model of working with kids in the Boys & Girls Club and giving them a promise—and that promise is access to a quality four-year education without the need to focus on funding. They just focus on things they’re passionate about.” In Tacoma, which is part of the metro Seattle area, the need for such programs is obvious, Howard says, noting that roughly 13 percent of ninth graders go off to four-year schools and only 9 percent of those students graduate. As part of the Great Futures Fund, BGCA students receive a four-year full

financial commitment. Participation is not dependent on financial need; the students are primarily identified through their involvement in the BGCA Youth of the Year program, Howard says. The first year of the Great Futures Fund is focused on academics, although students are assigned workstudy positions on campus, along with mentors from the University’s administrative team (including deans, vice chancellors, and the chancellor) who meet monthly with students. “In years two, three, and four we enhance the obligation,” Howard says.

As part of his internship through the Great Futures Fund program, UW Tacoma sophomore Spencer Heslip works with members of the Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound.


The Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound and the University of Washington Tacoma partnered to develop Great Futures Fund, a program designed to increase college access opportunities for local BGCA members. Present at the partnership signing (l to r): Savante Collins and Chante Weston, 2012-13 Great Futures Scholars; Mark Starnes, president and CEO of BGCA South Puget Sound; Debra Friedman, chancellor of UW Tacoma; Cedric Howard, vice chancellor for student and enrollment services; and Spencer Heslip, a 2012-13 Great Futures Scholar.

Students are given the opportunity for additional financial support and scholarships to those who qualify under Huskie Promise, the University’s Pell Grant tuition reimbursement program. They also receive a three-year paid internship at a local Boys & Girls Club, typically the one from which the student comes, he says. Internships are geared toward a student’s major course of study. India Irons is a junior in the program, majoring in social welfare. Her career goals are to work with victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and at-risk youth. Her internship involves work as a program specialist in performing arts at the Henry T. Schatz Boys & Girls Club. “I teach Hip Hop Dancing and Step to members that are in grades kindergarten to 12th grade,” Irons says. “What I love about teaching these kids is that it not only makes a difference in their lives, but it makes a difference in mine, as well. Teaching them teaches me.” The Great Futures Fund has helped Irons realize she is “capable of success.” “There will be challenges when you have to manage your time with work, school, your social life,” she says. “But 36

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the best thing about becoming involved in Great Futures is knowing that all the hard work pays off. It shows in your grades; it shows how you are involved in the community, or if you’re working at the Boys & Girls Club as an intern.” The Great Futures Fund is fully supported by donations from non-profit foundations and major companies such as TOTE, Inc., and Weyerhaeuser. In its first year, the program raised $950,000. There is no overhead, Howard says; 100 percent of the funding goes to recipients. The program not only sets Club members on a clear path for success, but it also addresses the national agendas of greater college access and completion rates, and it provides an increased pool of talented, diverse job candidates, Howard says. “Corporations here see the need for an educated workforce in the South Puget Sound. Major companies have stepped forward, saying, ‘You’re educating quality young people, you’re keeping them in our community, and ultimately you’re putting them in majors that we can hire,’” says Howard. “We’re paying it forward. We’re paying for them to get an education because they’re going to be our future workforce.”

Through the Great Futures Fund, 13 Club members have enrolled at the University of Washington Tacoma— four in the first year and nine this year. The goal over the next three to four years is to bring in class cohorts of up to 40 students, which translates into 160 students on campus at one time, Howard says. He points out that the total number of Boys & Girls Club students will always be much higher than those involved in this program because of other scholarship and mentoring programs in place at the University. “Our campus is called an urbanserving campus. We serve the community. The fact that our students can do internships and get exposure on campus as well as working at the Club—something they have a passion about—and they learn soft skills, is something we really cherish; it’s one of the priorities of our institution,” Howard says. Learning soft skills that are transferable in employment is an important component of the Great Futures Fund program, he says. “If you look at the internships with Boys & Girls Clubs, our students are learning how to communicate with diverse populations, how to develop programs, conduct assessments of both themselves and the programs they’re working in; they’re learning budget management and interpersonal and cultural skills that they probably would not have gotten if they weren’t part of this program. All of these are soft skills they’re looking for in the corporate world.” The Great Futures Fund Program is a model for communities across the country, Howard says. “The most important thing from our perspective,” he says, “is to build a college-going culture, and if we can build a college-going culture here in South Puget Sound, you can build it in the Bronx or in the Plains or in the Mississippi Delta.”● Janet Edwards is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.

Insight into Diversity - Great Futures Article