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NextGeneration - Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula

NextGeneration - Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula

Editorial: Solutions

Editorial: Solutions Executive Director Peter Fortenbaugh EXPECTING MORE FROM OUR NEXT GENERATION MEANS EXPECTING MORE, NOW, FROM THE COMMUNITIES AND BUSINESSES WHO WILL SOON NEED THEIR TALENTS. In this issue’s lead article, we recount the dangers and dimensions of the opportunity gap growing among young people in our society. A corollary problem facing all of us in educational development is the self-defeating attitude in many youths on the wrong side of that gap who expect little of the future. Overstated? We don’t think so. Kids are born wide-eyed, full of optimism and hunger. If their spirit is not nurtured, they feel disconnected from others. Indifference can replace that fire in the belly. Lacking goals, kids see no reason to apply themselves at school. Many look to gangs for a sense of belonging. Club staff and volunteers recognize this disconnection. But they also see how young people brighten and flourish when given the opportunity to learn and play and discover goals in the nurturing environment of our clubhouses and school-based programs. Sometimes we’re surprised how little it takes to instill confidence in kids. Often they just need to know someone cares. The results we have achieved in the past few years of learningfocused club programs tells us we are doing something right. In some ways we are the victims of our own success: the positive response of young people and their parents and schools have convinced us that our teaching and encouraging are no longer sufficient. The club enters its 50th year with the knowledge that we are not serving our members well enough unless we do everything we can to get them through high school with a realistic plan for the future. That is our mandate today, and our commitment. It’s becoming evident that the longer learning days common in most other countries are necessary in ours. Working with partner schools on the Peninsula, the club is systematically offering after-school programs for the kids in our communities. Our Center for a New Generation program is now offered at four schools, and we have been seeking to expand it so more students can gain access. CNG staff and volunteers testify to the enthusiasm young people show for instructive, engaging after-school activities, and how their attitudes and grades benefit. Kids want positive, structured activity at the end of the day. Attracting teens is a challenge. We’re not going to propel more young people to college until we focus more on their teen years. To bring them into the club, we are working with a selection of teen-only programs, special staff, and exclusive teen spaces in our clubhouses. Board and staff are evaluating the wisdom and economics of building teen centers, perhaps in partnership with other community resources. The club is deepening its alliance with parents, learning how we can better support families on a daily basis. We hold quarterly Neighborhood Advisory Group meetings at our seven sites to learn about needs and issues and to hear comments on the quality of club programs. Many kids in our communities have little exposure outside their immediate neighborhoods. Some have never seen the ocean or been to San Francisco. They are unaware of the many career avenues open to them. With the help of volunteers from that outside world, we are stepping up field trip activity to open those young minds. Building a more methodical results-focused agenda has required new commitments by our staff, our board of directors and volunteers and by our strategic partners. Those stalwarts believe we should call more public attention to all the club does to improve youth outcomes. Boys & Girls Clubs are usually seen as a good and safe place for kids to gather after school for sports and positive guidance. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula is much more than that today, and our strategies to shrink the opportunity gap require greater support from our primary source of donations: the communities we serve. That’s why we are urged to communicate clearly to our public the needs of youth in Silicon Valley and what the club is doing about them. As we enter our 50th year, we will speak out with more specifics, and seek out more individual and business stakeholders who share our deep concerns for the next generation. Blair Mendy, 12, earns a giggle from Center for a New Generation parent Sandy Green. Mrs. Green was honored as Parent of the Month for her efforts to recruit other families into CNG activities. 2

After school means a crucial four or five hours each day that can determine if a boy or girl will succeed through high school, get into college and build a productive life. Addressing the ugly fact that only 20 percent of students in the Peninsula’s low-income neighborhoods are proficient in math and reading and less than 50 percent graduate from high school, the club has been expanding its presence in the schools. Through the club’s Center for a New Generation program located on school campuses, children in grades K-8 get extra reading and math instruction, and receive mentoring, tutoring and help with homework. Kids also participate in enrichment activities focused on art, science, fitness and leadership--subjects largely eliminated from their schools. More than 500 children will participate in CNG this year. Many graduating 8th graders are accepted into high performing private high schools or other college-focused programs. CNG now operates at four schools: Edison McNair in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and James Flood in Menlo Park, and a new program opened in 2007 at Hoover in Redwood City. The day at CNG starts right after school. Children in K-5 grades work with teachers and mentors to improve reading and math skills. There are games, and learning disguised as fun. The ratio of students to staff is about 12 to one. After homework kids participate in electives like music, Boys Scouts, BAWSI Girls--a fitness program partnering with the Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative--and Super Star Science sponsored through Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service. Kids in grades six to eight are enrolled in a CNG academy offering even more electives, helping them develop study and life skills needed in high school and college. Academy students take field trips to high schools and colleges where they meet with admissions representatives. Assistance with high school entrance exams is also offered. Sean Mendy, CNG Director at Flood School and a graduate of Cornell University, says, “CNG is working. In addition to helping kids academically, the program affects behavior and attitudes. CNG students are much less likely to be absent from classes and more likely to be on time to school.” In collaboration with the host schools, district administrations and other community organizations, the club is studying further expansion of CNG operations, with the goal of serving all needs of the Ravenswood and Redwood City school districts as they’re identified. What happens At the Center for a New Generation? Clockwise from top: Flood CNG Unit Director Sean Mendy keeps a watchful eye on the progress of each CNG boy and girl. ❙ Former high-school teacher and now Hewlett-Packard exec Ron Schloss tutors young Joshua Branner. ❙ Dance class: Shyriffa Smith and Lucia Ledezma. ❙ A high-5 with CNG teacher Judith Harney who also coaches mentors and manages staff development. ❙ A clear shot during sports period. ❙ Sean Mendy talks about high school with older students. ❙ Fixing bikes is among the mechanical skills taught in CNG’s battery of electives. 3

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