Children in Val Verde once again have a program available where they can both play and learn this summer.
Thanks to a $140,000 Los Angeles County Community Services Block Grant, support from the Board of Supervisors and partnership with the county Department of Parks and Recreation, the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley was able to bring its summer program back to the area.
“It’s been amazing,” said Abigail Gutierrez, a branch manager for the club. “I love working with the kids and seeing how diverse the community is here, so I love that I can work with a multicultural environment.”
The club previously had a program running in Val Verde from the early 1980s through the mid-2010s, and in years since, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Youth Activity League kept it running until the pandemic slowed things down.
“So, for the last year, there hasn’t been much (programming) out here for the kids during the pandemic,” club CEO Matt Nelson said.
With the costs for programming quadrupling due to the pandemic and additional public health measures required, the grant allowed the summer program to return to Val Verde once again, according to Nelson.
“The kids are super excited,” Nelson said. “We’ve even had some kids who haven’t seen people in person for a year, so this is like their re-entry (before the school year starts). So, this helps them unwind and have fun and not have the extra stress of worrying about grades.”
Making it fun, yet educational
The free summer program gives kids the opportunity to take a break from school to explore the arts, inspire creativity, get outdoors and be active — all while still having fun and with all the health and safety protocols in place.
However, this year’s programming focuses on finding creative ways to be educational, with games and activities that are both fun and scholastic, such as hands-on science experiments and computer games on MyFuture.net, a Boys & Girls Club of America program that teaches kids internet safety and how to combat cyberbullying, among other things.
“They don’t even know sometimes that they’re learning things,” Gutierrez added.
The program also gives kids the opportunity to see their peers in person for the first time in more than a year before the new school year starts, allowing them a chance to socialize and remember how to take direction.
With a schedule of activities to follow each day, kids have fallen into the routine, Gutierrez said, adding, “Seeing how much their personality and confidence has come out is great to see.”
The staff has also worked to adapt the program to the kids’ interests, which in this area include a love for the outdoors.
“They love to look at nature and make art out of plants,” Gutierrez added. “It’s been amazing seeing my staff coming up with activities for the kids based on their interests.”
A ‘win-win’ for both kids and parents
“Everybody’s been impacted differently,” Nelson said of the pandemic. “It could mean more work. It could mean less work. It could mean working from home. It could mean kids home alone while parents are gone all day.”
So, it’s programs like this that have also allowed parents to return to work, knowing their kids are in a safe environment, with the club and its staff becoming almost like an extended family, Nelson said.
Many of the parents have been grateful for the support, thanking staff for offering local programming, Gutierrez added.
The Boys & Girls Club’s summer program in Val Verde for children ages 7-12 is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through Aug. 6 at Val Verde Park, located at 30300 Arlington St. Summer camps are also offered at the club’s Newhall and Canyon Country locations.
For more information, visit scvbgc.org.