I opened our leadership team meeting last month by asking everyone to speak to what the mission of the Club means to them.
For some context: The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.
Maurice, our Before & After Care Site Director, suggested we change the word “citizens” to “humans,” because when kids come through our doors, they are no longer students or athletes or brothers/sisters/sons/daughters. They are first and foremost people.
Ashley, our Harrison Site Director, then touched on the significance in exposing Club Members to new experiences, because she never knows who she is going to inspire.
Others talked about providing a safe place for kids to thrive, excellent programming, a sense of belonging, and driving change. But the one word that kept coming up again and again was possibilities. Never-ending possibilities for Club Members, for our staff, and for the impact we can have on the community.
I hope you scroll and get a sense of the possibilities at hand. We look forward to exposing you to the ways in which we implement our mission on a daily basis. As always, we welcome your feedback, involvement and investment in our work.
she saw a spark in me
Viviana Blount named 2021 Youth of the Year
A Club member for four years, 16-year-old Viviana “Vivi” Blount’s experience at the Club has been dramatically shaped by impactful relationships with members of the Club staff.
“At Harrison, Mrs. Ashley (Murray) saw a spark in me. She explained that I had the power to make a difference if I applied myself and worked hard,” says Vivi.
Along with a group of her peers and staff advisors, Vivi has worked to charter a Keystone Club, which provides leadership development opportunities for teens at the Club. She serves as Vice President of Keystone.
It was Club staff who encouraged her to enter the Youth of the Year competition. To do so, Vivi had to write a personal essay and present to a panel of judges from our community.
“I had mixed emotions. It’s never been easy for me to share my story. But I overcame my fear. The Club has helped me overcome so many obstacles in my life.”
Vivi's goal for being Youth of the Year is to bring more awareness to the Club, including a project to create more opportunities for members to podcast, record music, and learn about radio.
Vivi says her mantra right now is a Tony Robbins quote: “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right.”
She couldn’t be more right, and all of us here at the Club are excited about what the future holds for Vivi.
Jorge Murrillo Named Jr. Youth of the Year
Our Jr. Youth of the Year winner is Jorge Murillo, a 5th grade student in the South Bend Empowerment Zone at Harrison Primary. Jorge has been a Club member for three transformative years.
Jorge loves art, video game design, and anime. In his own words, “We all struggle with different things in our lives, but it is our ability to keep going that sets us apart from others. I will continue to try my best even if things get tough.”
STEM with SIBLEY MACHINE
147 years. That’s how long Sibley Machine has had a presence in South Bend.
Today, in the same building that once produced drills and machine tools, Club Members are using an XY Plotter Robot to draw their own designs, and coding images on pocket-sized micro:bits.
The partnership began last summer, when Sibley worked with our preteens to complete STEM projects using snap circuit kits, bread boards, battery packs, and resistors. Club Members also discovered how to develop, market, and pitch their own board games.
The work has continued. Every Tuesday afternoon, Club Members from the O.C. Carmichael site walk down to Sibley’s entrepreneur space to complete projects with owners Ann and Bill Voll and the assistance of Dr. Amanda Serenevy from the Riverbend Community Math Center.
"We strategically introduce them to one tech at a time, then let the kids be as creative as they want. Everything they are gaining exposure to now will create more opportunities for them. By the end of the year, it will be remarkable what they’ve learned to do.” -Ann Voll, Sibley
They coach and supervise, but let the kids make mistakes. If their design or code doesn’t turn out how they intended, they are encouraged to problem-solve and try again.
"Ann and Bill are so generous with their time and expertise in the STEM space. They bring real world examples to life, showing our Club Members the value of this work. Better yet, they develop meaningful relationships with our kids, serving as advocates and champions for those we serve.” --Jacqueline Kronk, CEO
When you ask our O.C. Teen Team Lead Ms. Shelby to spell her last name, she responds with “It’s Garing. Like caring but with a G.”
This could not be more fitting.
A Mishawaka High School and Indiana University South Bend grad, Shelby has been on staff at the Club since 2017. For Club Members at the O.C., she has become someone to trust, who is known for lifting spirits and helping out whenever she can.
Shelby has been critical in developing our teen program and recruiting more teens to the Club. “It’s so important that we let teens in the community know what we do and how great of a place this is,” she says. “So many kids I talk to think it’s just afterschool care for younger kids. They don’t realize what we offer."
Off the clock, Shelby loves day trips with friends to discover new coffee shops, has a side hustle making crafts, and loves to exercise. She's starting a doctorate in physical therapy at Andrews University in August with the goal of becoming a pediatric physical therapist
“I feel like I have a whole family here. Whether it’s Club Members, staff or volunteers, it’s one big family here for the same reason. We are here for a purpose and to make change. That’s the best part.”
The addition of all-day eLearning during the past year meant a lot of new local students coming through our doors. One significant silver lining of the pandemic was tripling the number of teen Club Members at the O.C. Carmichael Jr. Youth Center.
These now familiar faces have brought so much life, energy, and potential to our Club. We’ve watched them form friendships with each other and connect with the staff as we all went through the wild ride of 2020-2021 together.
“Growing and enhancing our teen program is critical. Especially now, teens need a place to go and be themselves. They need guidance and help with decision-making. We give them a place of belonging and acceptance, and on top of that opportunities and the tools they need to thrive as adults.” -Ashley Williams, OC Unit Director
In January, this group of teens celebrated becoming an official chartered Keystone Club. Keystone is a Boys & Girls Clubs of America program that provides leadership opportunities, with a focus on academic success, career preparation, and community service.
The Keystone’s Club first project was Foster the Fun, an event held on April 9 at the O.C. Carmichael. The brainchild of 14-year-old Blake, who won a grant from the South Bend Awesome Fund, the event brought together foster children in our area for music, dancing, food, and games.
“We have a responsibility.”
Meet Andy & Megan Pocock
Andy, Senior Vice President of Sales for Lippert Components, Inc., has served on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County since 2015. The Club has benefited tremendously from his leadership, as well as Megan’s guidance with events, fundraising, and volunteer efforts.
How were you introduced to the Club?
Andy: The bus tour I was invited to six years ago was still one of the most impactful experiences to happen to me in South Bend. The purpose was to educate us about every part of our community. We discussed the challenges that face different neighborhoods and the families who live there. It really struck me, and I knew I wanted to get involved.
What’s your why?
Andy: We cannot let disparity go unchecked. We have a responsibility as a community to give every kid a chance of success. Parents should not have to choose between going to work and leaving their child unsupervised. How can we sit by and allow that to happen?
Megan: The way the team created the eLearning sites, with virtually no playbook, was incredible. Kids were provided resources for school, meals, and social interaction, all in a safe environment. The way the Club responded to needs at such a crucial time solidifies not only the importance of their work, but also our responsibility to not let them do it alone.
What do you want people to know about the Club?
Megan: It’s more than just a place for kids to go after school or during the summer. It offers leadership positions, mentoring roles, opportunities to create new activities within their respective locations, and the list goes on! It is evident the kids feel a true sense of purpose from these responsibilities.
Andy: That more kids need to be here. We need to keep expanding and growing, not just so we can serve our current Club Members, but so we can reach the kids who we don’t even know need our services. Once they are here, they can be part of the incredible things happening at the Club.
Kevin Murphy sits on one of the four benches he repaired and improved as part of his Eagle Scout project for the playground at our O.C. Carmichael Jr. Youth Center.
The 17-year-old junior at Penn High School also built two wooden platforms that make it easier for our smallest Club kids to walk safely from their classrooms outside.
“I really got into the woodworking, it was a cool outlet,” he says. “More than anything I wanted to draw attention to the Club, and show other Scouts how we can serve and help out.”
Kevin recruited more Scouts to help clear brush from one side of the property (and recounts when his grandfather Chris Murphy showed up with a chainsaw to help) and many hours of power-washing. “It was cold.” he laughs. “I learned that next time I’ll do that in the summer.”
BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT
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