Advocating for Today’s Youth – How Boys & Girls Clubs of America Prepare Young People for Great Futures

Boys & Girls Clubs of America, global education magazine

Today’s youth face numerous challenges ranging from poverty to obesity to academic struggles. 11 million kids are left unsupervised after school each day and need a safe haven with caring mentors and program that can change their opportunity equation.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) tackles these issues every day, all year round. As the number one advocate for youth, the 4,100 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country and on U.S. military installations worldwide work to ensure great futures are within reach of the nearly 4 million members by helping them stay on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. In fact, by 2018, BGCA aims to see 1.4 million Club teens on track to graduate from high school, 1.2 million Club teens volunteer a total of 6 million hours and 4 billion hours of physical activity by Club youth.

Following is a look at some of the academic success programs Boys & Girls Clubs have place to provide all youth with the support, resources and opportunities they need to ensure they are on the path to pursue their dreams.

Academic Success

For every hour a child spends in school, they spend two hours out of school. How they spend that time can have a significant impact on their lives. As a leader in youth development during out-of-school time, BGCA is redefining the opportunity equation by leveraging the power of after-school and summer programs to ensure academic success and create a stronger generation of future leaders.

Even with U.S. graduation rates at an all-time high, nearly one in five American students still will not graduate high school. From expanding horizons in elementary school, to unearthing passions in middle school, to embracing subject mastery in high school, Boys & Girls Clubs are leading the charge to close the graduation gap for good. Club members nationwide participate in year-round academic success programs that encourage them to graduate from high school on time and prepared for a post-secondary education and a promising 21st century career.

For example, Clubs around the country offer programs such as Graduate for Más, in partnership with the Taco Bell Foundation, that identifies and addresses issues that teens face as they navigate the path toward graduation and beyond. The multi-faceted program available at Clubs across the country helps to prepare rising 8th and 9th graders for a successful transition into high school, while introducing teens of all ages to higher education opportunities and career goals beyond high school. The focus of this program, along with BGCA’s wide range of academic success offerings, is to reach the organization’s goal of helping 1.4 million Club teens stay on track to graduate by 2018, which represents an estimated $8 billion in economic impact. To date, according to a Harris Survey, 90 percent of Club alumni reported they earned a high school diploma or equivalent.

BGCA also offers programming that educates Club members about today’s digital world and ignites their passion for science and technology. According to STEMConnector.org, STEM jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as other fields by 2018. There will be more than 8 million STEM jobs in the U.S. by 2018, but 3 million of them may go unfilled because of a lack of people with required skills. Programs such as My.Future, sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, introduce more young people to STEM-related activities to help address this large, unmet need. My.Future allows Club members to select from more than 40 activities that reinforce digital literacy, including areas of exploring the web, communicating with others digitally and building media. Additional experiences allow members to explore advanced topics, such as robotics, coding and game design. These programs give Club members the technology skills needed to pursue promising careers and thrive in today’s digital world.

In addition, BGCA recently announced a partnership with The College Board and Kahn Academy to offer Club teens free, personalized practice for the redesigned SAT®. This pilot program helps level the playing field for students who are interested in taking the SAT and preparing for college-level courses.

And Club academic programs don’t end when the school year does. Each summer most youth lose about two months’ worth of math skills, while low-income students also lose morethan two months in reading achievement despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains over the summer break.

To combat summer learning loss, BGCA offers a program called Summer Brain Gain. The program is comprised of 17 one-week modules with themed activities for elementary school, middle school and high school students. Supported by Disney, each module takes a project-based learning approach; youth engage in a process of learning through discovery, creative expression, group work and a final project or production. Examples of these modules include “Bio Motion” and “Bug Off!” where Club youth can explore how living things navigate their environments or examine the incredible amount of diversity in the insect world. Although the average low-income U.S. student lost at least two months of learning last summer, the average Summer Brain Gain participant did not. In some areas, Club members showed significant gains, including improvements in reading skills for fifth and eighth graders, and in math skills for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

 Boys & Girls Clubs of America

As theleading after-school and summer learning provider, BGCA is committed to helping close the educational opportunity gap in the U.S. Through BGCA’s ongoing focus on academic success, as well as healthy lifestyles and good character and citizenship, today’s youth have access to the resources they need to ensure the great future they deserve is within reach.

For more information about Boys & Girls Clubs of America, visit www.greatfutures.org.

This article was published on August 12, 2015, for the International Youth Day, in Global Education Magazine.

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