WHATEVER IT TAKES
Between E-Learning and COVID restrictions, young people in our community have been forced to deal with a lot of changes. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County have responded in a variety of ways.
The Goshen team has begun a Teen Outreach Initiative, making wellness check phone calls to members we have not seen in a while and inviting them back to Club. The team is also assisting some members with Club Academy. Natalie Williams works with Goshen Schools to help members get caught up on school work.
Teens are also getting help with internships and getting their resumes completed for opportunities in the community.
In Middlebury, staff reacted quickly when three E-Learning days were added to the school calendar in March. Kids went virtual so teachers and staff could get vaccinated for coronavirus. Middlebury Club to open the doors to help students with e-learning while their parents were at work.
The staff worked to ensure breakfast, lunch and snacks were provided. They also made time for fun and games after the school work was completed. Many families expressed their gratitude for Club being open and helping to ensure the school assignments were completed.
The Elkhart Brady Center has also been a hub for E-Learning. It’s operated full days (5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) Monday through Friday to ensure each young person has a safe, positive place to go.
When Wa-Nee schools had a remote learning day, 21 members came to the Nappanee Club in the morning for academic assistance. The team worked with students to ensure that all assignments were completed. Team member Natalie cooked a hot lunch for the kids, who were joined by 12 additional members to enjoy the afternoon.
The teams at all our Club locations made many changes this year because of the pandemic, but everyone is doing “Whatever It Takes” to care for the youth in our program.
Members at the Middlebury Club enjoy a donut and work on school assignments during an E-Learning day.
Members of our Goshen Club team have started a Teen Outreach Initiative to make sure that members are doing OK and are invited to Club.
Inspiring and empowering all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens isn’t just a slogan. It’s something our Clubs put into action every day.
That was on full display in March. Goshen Club members were encouraged to “Spring Into Action” with service projects around the Club and the northside neighborhood.
They helped clean up the area and were encouraged to say “hello” to people in the neighborhood. This activity helped members learn about the importance of volunteering, activism and giving back to the community.
But it’s not all hard work, we also want members to have a little fun.
The National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI) survey helps measure our impact on youth. It tells us how we’re doing using common, research-informed indicators.
Because more than 115 members in Nappanee filled out the survey, Club staff wanted to reward them. One lucky member was selected to “deliver” a pie in the face of a staff leader.
In Elkhart, Teen Night returned after being sidelined nearly a year ago because of the pandemic. These nights are used to extend Club hours for older members.
More of the facility can be utilized since the younger members have gone home for the night. We hosted 53 teenagers who participated in open gym, basketball competitions, video game tournaments and board games. They were also served dinner and snacks.
Teen Night helped us build conversations around the toll the pandemic took on the social and emotional wellness of our youth. Having a night that felt somewhat normal was a huge relief for those who attended. We will host two or three teen nights each month.
Conversations are an important part in helping kids develop into caring and responsible adults.
Charles is a 5th grader who has been attending the Middlebury Club since the start of the school year. Recently staff noticed that he was coming into Club looking sad and didn’t want to join other kids in games or activities. A staff member asked Charles if he wanted to go for a walk and tell her about his day. Charles shared that he’s been struggling with other kids and didn’t know who to tell or what to do about it.
They developed ideas on ways to talk to other kids and how to ask adults for help. When Charles went home that night, he left a note asking, “Can we go for a walk every day?” with a picture of a heart. Each day when he comes into the Middlebury Club, he now feels confident the people around him will support and care for him.
Club member Thomas “served” a pie to the face of staff member Steven at the Nappanee Club as a reward for taking part in the NYOI survey.
Club members in Elkhart take time from enjoying basketball on Teen Night to pose for the camera.
Torch Club is our service leadership club for ages 10 to 13 where members are encouraged to develop projects.
During the first quarter, the Elkhart Torch Club held a donation drive for the Humane Society and had a pop-up cafe to raise money for the red pandas at the local zoo.
These young leaders are planning, organizing, mobilizing friends and working to complete their goals. Learning these skills at such a young age is transformational in their development to young adulthood.
Helping kids find creative ways to express themselves is a little easier now with the addition of Katie McKinnel as the Arts Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Elkhart County.
She recently visited in the Teen Center in Middlebury. The youth shared their interest in anime and some drawings they had done. Katie is helping them research ways they can include this type of art into their programming.
During a lesson on American artist Alma Thomas, members looked at examples of her work and had the opportunity to create their own paper mosaic. This creative interaction is helping members build confidence and share in a safe way.
Another form of artistic expression is taking place at the Goshen Club. EcoSistema has been running Music Monday with our members since the beginning of the school year.
Using rotating sets of instruments for the group, members can try something new each week. In February, the program added a twist by trading out the typical instruments for basketballs. Members are learning choreographed moves to songs that help them create music as a group. This has been an amazing spin on an already great program.
Goshen Club members learn how to use basketballs to create music as part of the Music Monday program.
A Middlebury Club member shows off the art projects they are working on.