I’ve had the great privilege of joining the staff of Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast this Spring. Over the course of my first few weeks and months, I enjoyed the opportunities I had to meet staff, watch them in action with our members, watch the members play and enjoy their time at the Club and could see how our programs were really making a difference for kids who would have been home alone or without any academic support during the virtual school year. Once the Summer rolled around, and the Clubs could switch back to their non-school year programming, I wasn’t sure how things would change or how the Club experience would be different.
Fortunately, I was able to let my 11-year-old son join as a member, and he’s been coming to work with me, spending most of his Summer so far attending the Railroad Club. After a year of significant isolation and screen-based learning and relationships, his access to kids his own age, face-to-face relationship building, and lots of hands-on learning, I am thrilled with all he’s been able to do this Summer. He really enjoys all of the physical play, spending time in the gym, playing foozball, and the outdoor games and “challenges” they seem to do every day. He also
really enjoys earning Club Bucks! As a parent who can peek in on him during the day, I’m particularly impressed with the creative STEAM activities they do during the arts and crafts period and have enjoyed watching him bond and learn from the Youth Development Professionals that run all the stations. I was particularly impressed when his pod had rotated to the Computer Lab the other day, but instead of seeing a group of 11-year-olds glued to screens playing video games, they were all seated around a table just…talking! Michael, the YDP who runs the computer lab, clearly took a cue from the group and took the time to facilitate some kind of conversation among the kids. Not sure what they were talking about—let’s face it, it was probably video games–but I was grateful that interpersonal relationships are a priority with Boys & Girls Clubs.
My son, who has always been a little shy and attends a very small school where he’s been with the same kids since kindergarten, is also really flexing some social-emotional muscles interacting with new kids and kids from different backgrounds than his. I couldn’t be prouder with his enthusiasm and his budding insights into the world at large that I’m pretty sure he would not have gotten without this great experience. I was proud to be part of the Boys & Girls Club movement when I joined as an employee, but now, as a parent, my admiration for what is being offered to all children through our programs and services has skyrocketed.
Kelly White O’Neill