Barbara Van Reed
Every afternoon after school lets out, more than 200 kids ages six to 12 from Webster and Dudley descend on the Boys & Girls Club building in Dudley for the remainder of the day. There they participate in a variety of activities, including sports, educational, life skills, and art projects.
Michael Kelly, the new director for the after school program at the Boys & Girls Club , gave a talk about the purpose and philosophy of the Club at a recent Rotary Club meeting.
The goal of the program is to give each child opportunities for choice, individual achievement, and development of self-confidence. Mike emphasized that the Club is not an after school daycare drop-off program. Rather, its purpose is to guide kids and young people to become responsible and caring adults and citizens.
The staff consists of 13 professionals trained in youth development, augmented with work/study students from Nichols College. The staff works to provide an environment where everyone is equal and free to voice an opinion, where each child can develop a sense of power, competence, usefulness, and belonging.
Equally important, the Club is a safe and positive place where kids can establish a relationship with caring adults.
Mike explained that 43% of the kids that attend the Boys & Girls Club come from a single-parent family. “If they’ve had a bad day, there is someone here to hear about it,” he said. “We can recognize their achievements, and their being themselves, provide them with hope and opportunity.
“Fun is the key to everything,” he continued. “We have to challenge them but have to make it fun. I love seeing when the kids don’t want their parents to pick them up yet.” Mike was animated, “It’s great when a kid’s face lights up when they see staff at a game or event.” He clearly enjoys his job.
Evenings from 6 to 9 at the Club are for teenagers, kids aged 13 to 18. Laura Perry is the program director for teens. They can participate in sports and recreation activities, play games, get homework help, participate in arts projects, and take part in character and leadership development programs. The teen’s program also includes topics geared more specifically to older kids, things like substance abuse and career development. There is a drop off in attendance when kids get to high school, unfortunately, and the staff works hard to try to keep them coming. But the draw of “hanging out with friends” is strong, Mike says.
The Club helps kids with transportation. Kids from Webster schools can take the school bus there. The Club also has a small bus that will take the younger kids home at 6 p.m. and pick up the teens on the same route and bring them to the Club.
The Club is open year round, all day during school vacations and in the summer.
There is a $25 a year membership fee, as well as weekly fees for the full day programs, when they also serve breakfast and lunch. Mike noted that the lunches are healthy, with fruit and veggies. The summer activities include social service community projects, such as bringing cookies and lemonade to the lifeguards at the beach, painting park benches, and baking dog treats for the animal shelters.
Primary funding for the Club’s $620,000 annual budget comes from the United Way, but fundraisers such as golf tournaments and bike runs also contribute.
Mike says that the 99 Restaurant is a major sponsor for fundraising events. Club membership fees bring in some revenue as well. (Kids who cannot afford to pay can get assistance with their fees.)
While the Club is located in Dudley, and its name includes Webster, kids from surrounding communities are welcome to join as well. The nearest other Club is in Worcester, so this is potentially a great resource for many other kids. Mike says the building and staff can accommodate them.
Mike has been with the Boys & Girls Club of Webster-Dudley since 2008, about the time new building at 55 Oxford Ave was built, and was chosen as a Program Director last October.
He summed up the mission of the Club: “We envision a future in which the Boys & Girls Club movement is a catalyst for an age in which success is within reach of every child, and whole generations of children are inspired to a new level of civic engagement not seen since the founding of our nation. This might seem like a tall order, but when you have the proper planning in the right key areas you start to notice the impact that you’re making with the youth.”
Let’s all cheer him on!
- Saturday, 03 March 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor