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Audrey is just 6 years old, but in those few short years she’s perfected some yoga and meditation poses, learned to dance, play pool and basketball, and has even marched in a parade with her grandmother.
She’s been able to experience all of this through her local Boys & Girls Club of Greater San Diego, where she’s attended for two years.
The club provides Audrey with a safe place to be while her grandmother, Mary, is working. But it’s been so much more than that to Audrey and Mary, from the second they stepped into the building.
“There’s such a warmth there,” Mary said. “She feels safe, and she has fun, and I think that speaks volumes.”
Every day, kids like Audrey find a welcoming space at BGCGSD. Many Boys and Girls Clubs are located in underserved communities where they can aid families by providing a safe, affordable and stimulating environment for their children.
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About 71 percent of all BGCGSD club members come from families who live at and below the poverty line. At some of these clubs, the number is closer to 94 percent, BGCGSD board member Mark Baker said.
“We’re their home away from home,” he said.
That sentiment holds true for the entire BGCGSD mission: “to inspire and enable youth to achieve academic success, build good character and responsible citizenship and make healthy lifestyle choices.”
At BGCGSD, staff members are there for club members from the second kids they get out of class. These staff pick the kids up on buses to provide safe transportation for those who need it.
Club members work with staff to make sure they understand and complete their homework, during “Power Hour,” BGCGSD’s homework assistance program.
“Our club members say this is their favorite time spent at the club,” Michelle Malin, BGCGSD’s vice president of development said. “Power Hour gives our club members the one-on-one time they need with someone who can help them, who can spend more time with them than their teachers can.”
In many cases, BGCGSD staff are the main source of academic assistance for kids living in the Greater San Diego area. These kids rely on staff for every day help, which could be something as monumental as teaching a young child learning English, how to spell his name.
Every site is equipped with a computer lab the kids can use to complete their homework and continue their learning by playing learning games and more. The organization also has a program that engages club members in science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities to facilitate interest in the STEM fields and help bolster math and science skills.
Creating Good Character
Club members are taught how to be good citizens and how to give back on a daily basis. They are taught to accept responsibility for the actions they take, and to stand up for themselves and others. This creates an emotionally and physically safe space for all club members.
One day of every month is dedicated to anti-bullying curriculum, through BGCGSD’s “Be a Hero” program. The Junior Leader program selects focused and outstanding club members to become role models for other members and each month, kids who have excelled as thoughtful, kind and caring club members are recognized as a “Youth of the Month.
Promoting Healthy Practices
BGCGSD works to encourage healthy habits in their club members by teaching them the importance of eating healthy and exercising, while keeping activities fun and engaging. Healthy cooking classes are provided to share fresh and delicious recipes with club members, who can then take what they’ve learned home to share with their families.
Club members receive healthy snacks during their breaks and must also complete at least a half hour of physical activity—though if you ask the kids about the requirement, they never would have known, Malin said.
Each day at BGCGSD is an opportunity for club members to learn, succeed, have fun and give back in an environment that embraces all kids while encouraging them to become the best they can be.
“Walking into (a BGCGSD) and seeing smiles on faces, that’s what makes it all worth it,” Malin said. “There’s special, simple moments that happen every day for the kids who attend our clubs.”
And perhaps that’s why many former club members return to their clubs later in life to become mentors, volunteers and a familiar face to the next generation of youth who will always find a place at BGCGSD.
SDGE Impact Statement: Each year over 400 young people advance their skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) subjects due to the generous support of SDG&E. SDG&E is helping to build tomorrow’s leaders.