This past year, our local youth have been in need of social and emotional support more than ever. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias (BGCS) is a reliable resource that is committed to doing whatever it takes to serve the kids in our community—they have especially been a support system to many families over this difficult time.
BGCS rose to the occasion last year by extending their hours and boosting their internet delivery so that all members could easily connect to their schools and teachers daily. Additionally, BGCS has continued their extended hours at select Clubs throughout the summer to help kids catch up academically, socially and emotionally in preparation for the new school year. About 1,100 young people have relied on BGCS as a support system this past year—both virtually and in-person.
A Visalia Club mom recently explained the challenges her children faced during quarantine, saying, “My children were missing their friends and life before COVID. I was worried about their mental health. My daughter was depressed. After schools shut down and we all had to quarantine, her behavior was overwhelming for me. My child needed something I couldn’t give her, and it left me feeling helpless. But once the Boys & Girls Club opened up, she was provided with structure, routine, fun, but most importantly relationships.”
The Club experience is centered around the mental health, and social and emotional wellbeing of their members. They receive support with their school work, they participate in organized games and spend free time in the gym with their friends. They receive a healthy snack (and lunch on longer days) and participate in fun programming every day, led by caring and patient Youth Development Coaches. Due to the increased rate of emotional distress and social isolation, Club staff have eagerly studied and implemented Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s recently developed Social-Emotional Development Guide, the Emotional Check in Guide and Teen Mental Health Discussion Guide. Through these guides, Club staff members are integrating social and emotional health into all aspects of the Club program, helping kids understand and appropriately express themselves. Staff are particularly talented in engaging their members and providing outlets for them to express themselves. Staff members cultivate a sense of family, acceptance, worth and community at the Clubs.
This Visalia mom says that this support from the Club has drastically improved her daughter’s wellbeing. She said, “The Club has offered a safe place that has offered my daughter a more normal life. The staff have been able to build trusting relationships with her. Their mentorship has brought her out of her shy little shell! I really believe that without this social interaction, my daughter’s behavior and mental health would be so much worse. Now, I see her smiling again. She looks forward to her adventures everyday at the Club. She’s singing, dancing, laughing—I see the joy in her again. What an amazing blessing the Club has been for my family.”
For a more in-depth understanding of a Club parent’s perspective on the social and emotional support at our Clubs, watch this video testimonial on BGCS’ YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/UweTh655cSE). This video showcases Nancy’s story, a Visalia Club mom who was able to rely on the resources provided by the Visalia Club during a difficult time. She found that the Club was able to support her daughter by teaming up with her school and helping implement an individualized regimen.
Parents can register their children for a BGCS membership by visiting www.bgcsequoias.org/registration. If you or your business would like to make a difference in the life of a local kid, please consider contributing. www.bgcsequoias.org/donate.