As the needs of Santa Clarita’s youths have grown and changed in 2020, the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley continues with critical programs for local youths while putting on events like their annual “Festival of Trees” happening between Nov. 18 and 24.
The Boys and Girls Club will be celebrating this year’s holiday with their “Festival of Trees” showcase at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, including its “Magic of the Lights” gala and auction on Friday, Nov. 20 at 6:45 p.m.
For more details and information to attend, visit the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club website.
In times of a global crisis, Boys & Girls Clubs have stepped up to provide safe places for kids and teens. Across the nation, Clubs are focused on meeting the needs of the communities they serve, including when and how to reopen, pivoting programs to a virtual format, and adapting in-person programs to new public health protocols.
Throughout the pandemic, the Club has played a critical role in connecting children with healthy meals on a routine basis. As our nation continues to cope with this crisis with an eye towards recovery, Boys & Girls Clubs are even more essential for supporting families and communities as they navigate their new realities. For our local Club, the story is the same.
Today, the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley continues its mission to serve those children and families most in need, focusing on some of our most vulnerable communities. The Club is providing academic support, a safe place for children as parents and guardians return to work while continuing to build tomorrow’s leaders.
After adapting Club programs to a virtual format in the Spring Club, our clubhouse doors reopened in June. A summer day camp program supported families as parents returned to work and provided a safe and fun summer for a limited number of local kids.
In August, when the new school year began in a remote format, an innovative arrangement between the Club and the Newhall School District was reached to pivot academic programs to provide remote learning support and enrichment through our Club staff.
Supporting Academic Success
The Club is currently providing remote learning support, so students connect with their teachers, make it to online class on time, and complete their daily assignments. This program goes beyond the Club’s traditional afterschool programming where children and teens would receive homework help and academic enrichment to support what students learn in school.
Today, the greatest need is to connect students to class, their teachers, and curriculum. The Club has shifted its programs to be held at McGrath and Newhall Elementary Schools to provide a safe supportive learning environment. These students are assigned to stable “pods” where Club professionals provide support in a safe socially distanced setting.
The program is currently providing remote learning support to 120 students with a waitlist of 30.
“2020 has impacted the world like nothing we could have imagined,” said Matthew Nelson, Chief Executive Officer, “but the Club has remained committed to its mission.”
“Our Board and Staff have remained focused on providing Santa Clarita’s young people with support and resources to thrive and grow. It has not been easy but that hasn’t stopped us. What kids and teens need right now has shifted and the Club continues to deliver the support they need,” said Nelson.
For many families, the program has made all the difference in allowing parents and guardians to get back to work while ensuring children are plugged into their schoolwork and continuing to learn.
Providing a Safe Place for Kids so Parents Can Return to Work
Historically, Boys & Girls Clubs offer a fun, safe and supportive place where kids can go when school is out. Their children and teens grow. The Club provides programs from education, the arts, and sports to leadership and service, help young people prepare for college or career. For 52 years the local Club has been a second home.
Tens of thousands of young people have benefitted from the program. In 2020, essential workers who are parents returning to the workforce need to know that their children are in a safe place with caring adults. The unfortunate alternatives for many right now is to leave children home alone or put off going back to work.
For the parents of children in the Club program, they can go to work with peace of mind that their children are safe, can get a healthy meal, and know that they are completing their schoolwork. The Club program remains affordable and accessible. In the face of COVID-19 parents can take comfort knowing that the Club program strictly follows L.A. County Public Health Guidelines that includes regular disinfecting and cleaning, wearing facemasks, and maintaining social distance.
“It’s been a blessing to be a part of the Club,” said Mariza Gutierrez a parent of club Members. “Especially during these difficult times that we are going through right now.”
“It’s been amazing to have the Club to count on during the summer where we didn’t have childcare for our kids since we both still had to go to work and then of course during this distance learning that we are experiencing at the moment,” said Gutierrez. “It has been a struggle but thanks to the Club and the support that they’ve provided it’s made it a lot easier on us parents and we are very grateful for that.”
Building Tomorrow’s Leaders
With unemployment on the rise and the long-term economic impact of COVID-19 unknown, it’s crucial that we equip our young people with the essential skills to successfully enter the workforce. For teens, the Club continues to provide leadership development through virtual programming. Each week teens meet with Club staff at Leaders in Training and Keystone meetings.
While there, teens connect with peers, develop leadership and communication skills and discuss current events, such as what their future college experience will look like. Ten teens recently completed the UPS Road Code program, a virtual driver safety training program.
Several attended a Virtual Teen Summit hosted by the Los Angeles Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs in October. At the summit teens connected with other Club teens while interacting and learning from experts in the fields of STEM, Virtual Reality, Retail, Travel & Hospitality, Technology, Professional Sports, Entertainment, Financial Institutions, Aerospace, Environment and more!
“During quarantine, Keystone has helped me an immense amount,” said 16-year-old Katherine Lujan. “I’ve just been really kind of bored. During the summer I was extremely bored. So, at Keystone meetings, I would join them on ZOOM and we would play games and talk about our week.”
“It was really a source for me to destress and talk with friends that I wouldn’t be able to talk to if it weren’t for the meetings,” said Lujan. “The Boys & Girls Club has definitely taken me a step further with my leadership experience and given me fundamental skills to be able to function and just has genuinely helped me to grow.”
“I am so proud of Matt Nelson’s leadership and the dedication of our Club staff to keep delivering critical support and services to families in the Santa Clarita Valley community,” said Boys and Girls Club Board President Ann-Marie Bjorkman.
“Meanwhile, 2020 has dealt us significant funding challenges due to widespread economic hardships and our inability to conduct our conventional fundraising events – we canceled our annual auction for the first time in 48 years, which is usually our biggest fundraising event,” said Bjorkman. “Our Board of Directors has been working tirelessly to supplement our fundraising and operations open to provide essential support to those in need.”
Boys & Girls Clubs drive measurable results for our nation’s youth:
* While 1 in 6 kids don’t graduate on time, 97 % of teen Club members say they expect to graduate high school.
* During the summer, Boys & Girls Clubs help close the summer learning gap that significantly impacts low-income youth.
* More than 75% of youth express concerns about whether they have the skills necessary to secure a job.
* Every $1 invested in a Boys & Girls Clubs returns $9.60 in current and future earnings and cost-savings to their communities.