The Boys & Girls Club: helping kids be kids
The building is unassuming – more temporary than not, and the floor gives when you walk on it. But inside, great things are happening.The Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, situated across from Kings Beach Elementary, offers a refuge of sorts for children. It’s not school and it’s not home, it’s somewhere in the middle – a place where children are given choices and are trusted to make good decisions, a place where they can play and learn and explore on their own terms with a teaching, watchful eye close at hand.The formula here is not rocket science.Costs are high in the Tahoe Truckee region, often requiring more than one service job to pay the bills. So not only do children come home to empty nests each day, they often shoulder responsibility for their family’s daily struggle for food, housing and care of siblings. But not from 2:30 to 5:30 each afternoon during the school year, and from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the summer. For Kings Beach and Truckee children kindergarten through high school, those few hours are strictly their time: Time to study, kick around a soccer ball, play football or basketball, have a healthy snack, test their skills at music, science, art, theater, or maybe just play.”And never has a child been turned away because they don’t have money,” explained Executive Director Dana Fraticelli proudly, and she’s not just talking about a few kids.The Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe serves more than 600 kids each year, sometimes up to 150 per day. Forty-six percent of those children are girls, 54 percent boys.PhilosophyThe local club follows guidelines and curriculum offered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and were recently named a “Project Learn” site, an important distinction for learning in the organization, according to Fraticelli.At the heart of the club’s philosophy are the following five core programs:– Education, Environmental Stewardship and Career Development – with programs including daily homework help and tutoring, environmental education, computer studies and career exploration; Power Hour (a homework program); Discovery Zone (hands-on science); Newspaper and Reading Club.– Cultural, Performing and Literary Arts – Painting, drawing, mural art, ceramics, crafts, music, dance, drama and creative writing.– Sports, Fitness and Recreation – Basketball, skiing/snowboarding, indoor soccer and football leagues, martial arts, tumbling, plus non-competitive leisure activities, plus, during the summer, hiking and camping and swimming.– Character and Leadership Development – Focusing on social skills, public speaking, community service, governance, featuring a youth advisory council, which gives members the opportunity to participate in program development.– Health and Life Skills – Cooking and nutrition classes; snacks, free breakfast and lunch during summer, plus Smart Moves, a program to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, gang involvement and teen pregnancy.With this blanket of learning opportunities, the Boys & Girls Club offers kids a chance to enrich their lives, but as Program Director Allison Everist explained, with the exception of the youngest children, they are not babysitters.”These kids make a choice to come here. Their parents have to sign them up initially, but kids can come in and out. It’s up to them. … and we’re not just out there to supervise, we’re there to teach. During art, for instance, we’re not just teaching origami for a day, something to kill time, we’re teaching them fundamentals of art, brush strokes, techniques. And we follow that teaching ideal in everything we do.”Everist was quick to add that as part of their philosophy, teachers must understand what she terms the “CUBI” principle. The acronym is defined from the Boys & Girls Club philosophy on teaching character development, which includes: A sense of competence; a sense of usefulness; a sense of belonging; and a sense of power or influence.When an elective homework class averages 50 kids a day, seems there might be something to the philosophy.Omar Garcia, a 10-year-old sporting some fresh road rash on his forehead from a bike spill, speaks for many of the youngsters when defining his favorite part of the program. It’s “the games. I like to play football and basketball and soccer.”Local fundingThe Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe provides its community a functioning, affordable, after-school and summer program offering young people choices, allowing them to make healthy decisions, all the while teaching them life skills.The down side – if you consider it a down side – is that programs cost money. Contrary to popular belief, the local Boys & Girls Club receives no money from the national program, Fraticelli explained. The club is its own entity, relying on federal and state grants and donations.Here is where the people of the community come in. While future plans for the club include a new facility in partnership with Kings Beach Elementary, and will include a campaign for fund-raising, the club is coming to the community right now for donations to cover operating costs.Tahoe Jazz 2001 is the Boys & Girls Club annual fund-raiser. It is being held Sept. 28-30 at Northstar-at-Tahoe, and the money raised goes directly to the local club.For details on Tahoe Jazz, call (800) 965-4827 or (530) 583-3494.
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