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August 7, 2020

7/8/2020 11:54:00 AM
Youths to benefit from partnership
The Boys & Girls Club pilot program in Hayden Elementary offered fun, after-school activities. The children above were all smiles as they participated in the unique art form using shaving cream!—Submitted Photo
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The Boys & Girls Club pilot program in Hayden Elementary offered fun, after-school activities. The children above were all smiles as they participated in the unique art form using shaving cream!—Submitted Photo
BGC: Empower kids
The Boys & Girls Club is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "inspire and empower young people." To accomplish this goal, the BGC offers diverse after-school programs with a focus on academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and citizenship. One of their programs includes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities. Art, such as shave cream art, is an activity kids get to do as part of the program, but all programs focus on one of their three priority outcomes which lead to better outcomes for youth in nearly all aspects of their life. There are approximately 94 BG Clubs in Indiana.
Kylan Higgs

A partnership with the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) of Seymour and local elementary schools has emerged from a pilot program that launched earlier this year.

Now, the two organizations plan to bring quality children's after-school programming to several elementary schools here, as well as in Jackson County.

In January 2020, the Seymour BGC began a pilot program for reading and math in Hayden and Graham Creek Elementary Schools, which was provided free thanks to local donors. The Seymour BGC did not see a reduction in attendance despite COVID-19 and have not had any outbreak cases among its members, though the Hayden and Graham Creek programs were cut short due to the pandemic.

Until now, BGC did not have a lasting presence in Jennings County, though the Jennings County Youth Foundation has extensively tried to start an initiative to bring the Club to JC.

According to JC Youth Foundation President Casey Ernstes, the JCYF began the initiative to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Jennings County several years ago. There are several steps that are required to get a Boys & Girls Club. Andre Arrington, the BGC of America representative for JCYF, helped them through the process.

Ernstes said they began by doing a Community Readiness Assessment and that 83% of those surveyed agreed the community needed a youth center here.

After evaluating other data-driven factors within the school system, such as approximately 60 percent of students in almost every JC school using the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, it was evident that an after-school program offering physical and emotional support to children is necessary.

In order to proceed, the JCYF had to make some changes to strengthen their organization and get their name out in the community more. Last year, it was announced to the public that they were working to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Jennings County and the foundation began working with Ryon Wheeler, Executive Director from the Boys & Girls Club in Seymour.

"We worked with Ryon to identify where we could use programming and helped him launch the (Hayden and Graham Creek) program," said Ernstes. "We also raised the $15,000 needed to start the program in January."

Additionally, the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour in partnership with Seymour Community School Corporation and Jennings County School Corporation intend to submit an application to the Indiana Department of Education for a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. The grant will support an academic-focused after-school program for students at Redding Elementary, Brown Elementary, and Jackson Elementary in Seymour as well as Brush Creek, Graham Creek, Hayden, North Vernon, Sand Creek, and Scipio Elementary Schools in Jennings County. The BGC will be launching their program this August, which is also the grant application deadline.

BGC should receive word on whether or not they will be awarded the grant by October of this year. However, even if they do receive the grant, funds will not arrive until 2021. The gap between the August launch and the New Year will either be funded by the Latchkey Program, BGC membership fees, donors, or a combination of all three. The goal would be to minimize any fee-dependent funding.

Seymour BGC Executive Director Ryon Wheeler said membership application for BGC always includes an annual fee, but that that is a small percentage of their revenue. Regardless, BGC would never turn someone away because of their inability to pay. The success of the JC Club will depend on community support. The more grants and donors they are able to collect, the higher quality and quantity of programs the BGC team can provide.

"We won't sacrifice quality," said Wheeler. BGC wants to provide as many diverse programs to kids as possible, but would rather have a small number of programs that are effective, sustainable and meaningful, rather than offer a long list of programs that are less effective.

"It is hard to find a program with a better return on investment than this program," Wheeler said.

A 2015 study by the Institute for Social Research and the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan found that for every dollar invested in BGC, $13.62 in economic benefits are returned to the individual and society.

Wheeler stressed that sustainability is key to success. The Seymour Boys & Girls Club is 75 years old. Wheeler himself was a Club kid at the Frankfort location while his father was a Club kid at Shelbyville in the 50's.

The executive director said that he and his team are working to build the program with the guidance of a local board over the next few months.

The maximum amount the grant can offer, based on the number of children served, is $500,000 a year for four years, which would total $2,000,000. Launching the JC Club, as well as offering transportation and meals, are just some amenities BGC hopes to provide with the grant. in addition to a constant presence both in and out of school hours for kids.

Wheeler said they don't want the schools to "just be a renter, but a partner" as the programs will be hosted by the schools for the time being, while BGC provide resources.

The program will start with partnerships with the elementary schools. If and when the program continues to be successful and funding is forthcoming, the program will expand to the secondary schools. Currently, local donors have covered funding for Hayden, Graham Creek and Sand Creek for the 2020-21 school year, excluding annual membership fees. Decatur Mold Tool & Engineering single handedly covered the yearly funding for Sand Creek.

Casey Ernstes said, "We feel like the BGC is in great hands. We will continue to collect funds to help support the BGC of Jennings County."

If you have any comments on the proposed program, contact Boys & Girls Club at info@bgcsey.org. A copy of the application will be available for review after submittal at Boys & Girls Club of Seymour.

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