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Boys, Girls Clubs of America Guide Military Youth

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 1997 – Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, silver screen star Denzel Washington and President Bill Clinton all took advantage of the programs offered by Boys and Girls Clubs of America when they were young. Military youth can now do the same.

DoD is expanding its ties with Boys and Girls Clubs of America to offer the same educational, recreational and leadership development programs at military youth centers on base and overseas. A tie between DoD and the national, nonprofit youth organization formed during the Gulf War is becoming a lasting, peacetime bond, according to DoD family policy officials.

In 1991, Boys and Girls Clubs of America asked how they could help Reserve and National Guard members' children while their parents were deployed in the Persian Gulf. DoD provided a $3 million grant; in return, the youth organization gave free memberships to military youth in areas most affected by Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Free membership included transportation to nearby clubs, access to summer camps and sports leagues, as well as before and after school programs and training programs for military youth center specialists worldwide. Boys and Girls Clubs of America ran a recruiting drive to let reserve component commands know about the free services available. As a result, about 17,500 military youth joined activities at about 520 off-base club sites, DoD officials said.

The grant ran out in 1993. Military youth joining Boys and Girls Clubs of America now pay the standard annual membership fee, which ranges from 50 cents to $15 a year depending on the community. But military youth centers stateside and overseas are becoming affiliates, offering many of the same club-sponsored programs, DoD officials said.

Throughout the services, military youth centers serve about 200,000 youth, said Patty Kasold, a senior family services adviser at DoD's Office of Family Policy. "The affiliation between DoD and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a positive effort toward expanding services for DoD youth," she said. "The Boys and Girls Clubs philosophy, programs and training support DoD youth program goals. DoD is encouraging the services to link into the Boys and Girls Club programs and training opportunities."

Programs previously offered only at Boys and Girls Clubs of America facilities off base are now being offered at military youth centers on base, according to Tim Richardson, director of program services at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's Atlanta headquarters.

If DoD tried to duplicate what's offered through Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the department would have to hire more staff at every level, said Linda Smith, director of DoD's Office of Family Policy. "Now we get it all for the cost of an affiliation fee."

In May 1995, the Air Force signed an affiliation agreement with Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Since then, 51 of about 90 Air Force youth centers have applied for or been granted charters. The rest of the Air Force's youth centers are expected to join this year.

The Army has pilot programs linking base youth centers at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Monmouth, N.J. Another three centers are in the process of becoming affiliated, DoD officials said. Up to 140 Army youth centers may get the chance to seek charters.

Boys and Girls Club of America officials are currently negotiating with Navy morale, welfare and recreation officials for a pilot program involving 20 youth centers. "All indicators suggest that Navy's MWR headquarters will encourage each of its 140 youth centers to become Boys and Girls Club of America affiliates by as early as the fall of 1997," Richardson said.

Officials at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, Calif., received a DoD Model Communities grant to fund a pilot partnership program with the national youth organization. "After evaluating this pilot project, other Marine Corps' youth centers will likely be given the opportunity to affiliate with Boys and Girls Clubs of America," Richardson said. "In the 12 months since the pilot project started, the base commander has been pleased to the point of relocating the program into a larger facility with a gymnasium," he said.

Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a nonprofit youth organization with nearly 2,000 facilities in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. More than 6,200 full-time and 16,600 part-time staff members serve more than 2.3 million youth aged 6 to 18 nationwide.

The clubs offer health, social, educational, vocational, self-esteem and character development programs. "Our objective for the last 138 years has been to provide supervision and support to help young people become good citizens and leaders," Richardson said.

When a military youth center receives a club charter, Richardson said, Boys and Girls Club of America assigns a field service director, who makes periodic visits to review program and training needs. Each military youth center pays 2 percent of its operating budget for its charter. This fee entitles the center to the same programs and resources whether it's a small center located in Guam or a large facility in Texas, Richardson said.

More than 50 programs are currently offered. They include:

o An annual Youth of the Year competition honors scholastic achievement, community service and leadership skills. Local winners advance to five regional competitions. Regional winners travel to Washington to compete for the national title, which earns a meeting with the president, a congressional breakfast and a $10,000 scholarship from The Readers Digest Association. In 1994, two Air Force youth were regional winners, Richardson said.

  • Taco Bell Foundation sponsors the TEENSupreme Keystone Club, which focuses on leadership development through community service projects.
  • The Jackie Joyner-Kersee World Class Challenge combines a series of track and field events, while the Michael Jordan Invent-a-Sport Challenge tests creativity and communication skills.
  • The Targeted Outreach program identifies and recruits delinquent youth into ongoing club programs and activities.
  • Power Hour provides homework help and tutoring every day after school.
  • Ghostwriter promotes literacy through activities involving both print and electronic media.
  • The Ultimate Journey introduces young people to environmental education and the world of nature.
  • The Bonnie Raitt/Fender Music Education Program provides guitar lessons for club members who would not otherwise have the opportunity or money to pursue music training.
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