Helping Young People Realize Their Full Potential
In a room of five young people, it’s estimated that one of them won’t graduate high school on time, according to Education Week. It’s also estimated that of those five, one is living in poverty, and across the nation, there are 15.1 million that are unsupervised after school hours. All that coupled with a prime time for crime being from 3 to 7 p.m., it’s clear that many of today’s young people are in crisis.
For 70 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida (BGCCF) has worked to solve these issues by raising graduation rates, creating a safe place for young people to grow, encouraging creative and healthy lives and bringing up strong leaders. Its mission: to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.
After moving to Orlando in the late 1930s, Major League Baseball player Joe Stripp started the Boys Club of Orlando in 1944 in the old Davis Armory downtown. In 1988, the name was changed to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and from 1989 to 1999, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida opened six additional Clubs between Orange and Seminole counties and eight pilot programs were launched in Orange County middle schools.
This year marks BGCCF’s 70th anniversary and it currently serves nearly 13,000 Club members at 30 locations. While there are seemingly endless roadblocks to youth development, BGCCF aims to combat them all through character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports, fitness and recreation.
“BGCCF maintains communication and open dialogue with parents and teachers in order to help nurture positive development of the ‘whole’ child,” said Tina Ashe, director of marketing and communications at BGCCF. “Club members also take a yearly BGCCF youth survey so we may measure how they feel about their connection to the Club and staff, and to gauge what they’ve learned through youth development programs offered at their Club. It is vital for the organization to understand our members’ point of view in relation to their overall Club experience.”
BGCCF encourages the local community to get involved by volunteering time and talent or through individual or corporate giving. This year’s Volunteer of the Year is Rebecca York, manager at Averett Warmus Durkee in Orlando, and has volunteered with BGCCF since 2006 working on college readiness programs. On her experience as a volunteer, she said, “I think most people want to find a way to give back. Sometimes it’s money; sometimes it’s time; sometimes you have an idea,” she said. “I really like BGCCF because they’ve really welcomed that desire for me. How can I help? How can I add? This is what I know how to do, now how can this be helpful to you?”