America’s kids are in crisis, and troubling trends are evident here in Stanislaus County. Consider these alarming facts:• The U.S. ranks 22nd in high school completion among 28 industrialized countries.
• Three in 10 kids are obese or overweight.
• One in 5 children lives in poverty.
The consequences of these staggering statistics are felt locally and across our nation. They will cost up to $209 billion in lost taxes and higher government expenditures over the lifetimes of those who fail to graduate high school. Nationally, health care costs to treat issues related to childhood obesity are $14.1 billion annually. States spend an average of $7.1 million a day locking youth up in juvenile justice facilities.
Every day, thousands of children in our community leave school with no place to go. They are unsupervised, unguided and unsafe during these critical after-school hours. Likewise, many have no access to learning opportunities during the summer, increasing their risk of falling behind for the next school year.
How do we reverse these trends?
One way is to recognize the importance of out-of-school time. The out-of-school environment – after school and during the summer – plays an essential, yet often overlooked, role in determining kids’ future. By providing access to positive, productive programs and caring adult mentors after school and during summer vacation, we can help change the future. That is the aim of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and of the new clubs that began programs last summer in Stanislaus County.
In its inaugural year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County:• Boosted after-school program enrollment at Sylvan and C.F. Brown elementary schools by 120 students; more than 270 were registered as club members by May.
• Offered mentoring and tutoring programs at both schools and helped to reduce behavioral problems in a number of children.
• Brought in proven Boys & Girls Clubs core programs such as the Skills Mastery and Resistance Training (SMART) program, SMART Girls, Passport to Manhood, Torch Club, Project Learn and Triple Play, to promote character development and academic success.
• Partnered with local youth service organizations, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to provide more opportunities for club members.
• Developed an engaged, effective parent group that has brought many parents closer to their children. The Parent Advisory Council has exposed parents to resources, experiences and knowledge to help them become engaged with their children and in their community.
• Provided summer programs at Somerset Middle School from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, to help children learn, grow and avoid the “summer slide” in education.
• With the support of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Taco Bell Teen Foundation and Ocat Inc., our local Taco Bell franchiser, the Graduate for Más program was launched to help incoming 9th graders adjust to high school and be equipped to graduate on time and advance to vocational training and/or college.
• Partnered with Blessings in a Backpack, which provides club members at Sylvan Elementary with bags of groceries to help them have meals over the weekends.
Two parents became club employees after demonstrating their abilities as volunteers, and they will return to college in the fall to continue their educations. One was selected to receive a four-year scholarship to University of Phoenix through a partnership program with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and of Stanislaus County are asking people to make out-of-school programs a priority and empower the next generation to achieve a great future. Our goal is summarized in what we are calling the Great Futures campaign. The campaign to ensure every child and teen has access to safe, engaging and productive time when out of school starts Thursday.
As our slogan says: “3:00 p.m., when school’s out, clubs are in. Open the door for the kids of Stanislaus County.”