In times of a global crisis, Boys & Girls Clubs have stepped up to provide safe places for kids and teens. Across the nation, clubs are focused on meeting the needs of the communities they serve, including when and how to reopen, pivoting programs to a virtual format, and adapting in-person programs to new public health protocols.
Today, Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley continues its mission to serve those children and families most in need, focusing on some of the most vulnerable communities. The club is providing academic support, a safe place for children as parents and guardians return to work while continuing to build tomorrow’s leaders. After adapting club programs to a virtual format in the Spring Club, clubhouse doors reopened in June.
A summer day camp program supported families as parents returned to work and provided a safe and fun summer for a limited number of local kids. In August, when the new school year began in a remote format, an innovative arrangement between the club and the Newhall School District was reached to pivot academic programs to provide remote learning support and enrichment through club staff.
The club is providing remote learning support, so students connect with their teachers, make it to online class on time, and complete their daily assignments. This program goes beyond the club’s traditional afterschool programming where children and teens would receive homework help and academic enrichment to support what students learn in school.
The club has shifted its programs to be held at McGrath and Newhall elementary schools to provide a safe supportive learning environment. These students are assigned to stable “pods” where club professionals provide support in a safe, socially distanced setting. The program is providing remote learning support to 120 students with a waitlist of 30.
“2020 has impacted the world like nothing we could have imagined but the club has remained committed to its mission,” said CEO Matthew Nelson. “Our board and staff have remained focused on providing Santa Clarita’s young people with support and resources to thrive and grow. It has not been easy but that hasn’t stopped us. What kids and teens need right now has shifted and the club continues to deliver the support they need.”
Historically, Boys & Girls Clubs offer a fun, safe and supportive place where kids can go when school is out. There children and teens grow. The club provides programs including education, the arts, and sports to leadership and service, help young people prepare for college or career. For 52 years the local club has been a second home. Tens of thousands of young people have benefitted from the program.
In 2020, essential workers who are parents returning to the workforce need to know that their children are in a safe place with caring adults. The unfortunate alternatives for many right now is to leave children home alone, or put off going back to work. For the parents of children in the club program, they can go to work with peace of mind that their children are safe, can get a healthy meal, and know that they are completing their schoolwork.
“It’s been a blessing to be a part of the club,” said parent Mariza Gutierrez, “especially during these difficult times that we are going through right now. It’s been amazing to have the club to count on during the summer where we didn’t have child care for our kids since we both still had to go to work and then of course during this distance learning that we are experiencing at the moment. It has been a struggle but thanks to the club and the support that they’ve provided it’s made it a lot easier on us parents and we are very grateful for that.”
For teens the club continues to provide leadership development through virtual programming. Each week teens meet with club staff at Leaders in Training and Keystone meetings. While there, teens connect with peers, develop leadership and communication skills and discuss current events, such as what their future college experience will look like.
Ten teens recently completed the UPS Road Code program, a virtual driver safety training program. Several attended a Virtual Teen Summit hosted by the Los Angeles Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs in October. At the summit teens connected with other club teens while interacting and learning from experts in the fields of STEM, virtual reality, retail, travel and hospitality, technology, professional sports, entertainment, financial institutions, aerospace, and the environment.
“During quarantine Keystone has helped me an immense amount,” said Katherine Lujan, 16. “I’ve just been really kind of bored. During the summer I was extremely bored. So, at Keystone meetings I would join them on Zoom and we would play games and talk about our week. It was really a source for me to de-stress and talk with friends that I wouldn’t be able to talk to if it weren’t for the meetings. The Boys & Girls Club has definitely taken me a step further with my leadership experience and given me fundamental skills to be able to function and just has genuinely helped me to grow.”
“I am so proud of Matt Nelson’s leadership and the dedication of our club staff to keep delivering critical support and services to families in the Santa Clarita Valley community,” said Boys and Girls Club Board President Ann-Marie Bjorkman. “Meanwhile, 2020 has dealt us significant funding challenges due to widespread economic hardships and our inability to conduct our conventional fundraising events – we cancelled our annual auction for the first time in 48 years, which is usually our biggest fundraising event. Our board of directors has been working tirelessly to supplement our fundraising and operations open to provide essential support to those in need.”