When you picture your child after school, you probably want an image in your head of them running around with friends, eating a healthy snack or doing some other kind of enriching activity. What you don't want to picture is them sitting around, staring at a screen all day long.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend is on the same page. In 2019, they served roughly 1200 kids across all of their programs, and if you visited on any given day what you would see is staff and kids doing "quite literally everything," says Rachel Cardwell, Director of Development.
- Rachel Cardwell
Program activities change from year to year depending on the interests of both the staff and the kids.
"Our program is based on what our staff are passionate about," Cardwell explained. This encourages staff to get more involved in the program because they are able to lead activities based on their own experiences, knowledge or interests. From there, staff identify the needs of the participants to figure out the best approach. Sometimes there may be more participants who need help academically, while other years participants may need to practice their social and emotional skills.
All programs run by Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend are centered around three core values: Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Character and Leadership Development. Kids are split up into smaller groups throughout the afternoon to do activities like art, homework, or physical activities like group games or sports. All of these activities relate back to the core values in some way.
Although the elementary after-school program houses quite a large number of kids, the program is set up to give those who need extra attention or additional resources the support they need. Family Plus is a program that operates within the regular after school program, and is run by a licensed social worker, Cardwell says.
"She runs a small group program based on the needs of children attending club," she explains. "She's also our resource guru to connect families to outside counseling, the food pantry, and anything else they might need."
In addition to the after-school program for elementary aged kids, Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend also offers Junior Club for kindergartners, a teen program for middle and high schoolers, and a site-specific program for residents of Ariel Glen and Healy Heights Apartments.
Junior Club is a much smaller program, with a limited enrollment of 35 kids. It is housed in the First United Methodist church across the street from the Club and is currently full. The smaller environment allows kindergartners to adjust to the program without being overwhelmed by a larger space with more participants, Cardwell explains.
- Rachel Cardwell
"Some kindergartners are really excited to play with the big kids, but others get really overwhelmed," she says. "With Junior Club we know that in first grade these kids will walk in and know what to expect and how to be a Club kid."
Once kids have moved on to middle or high school they still have a place at the club in the teen program until they graduate from high school. This after school program is free for teens to attend and fosters a sense of responsibility and independence while giving teens consistent guidance and more supervision than they would have if they went home.
"It's a wonderful place for teens to go," Cardwell says. "Teen life is more complicated, and here they will be learning the things that you want them to learn, like workforce readiness, and other skill building activities." There is currently no waitlist for the teen program.
The motto for Boys and Girls Clubs of America is 'whatever it takes to build great futures,' and this is something the staff in Bend take to heart.
"Not every kid will fit in a box, so we need to build the box around the kid," Cardwell says. "Our staff are so good at that! They are there consistently, to be a grown up in a kid's life who cares about them."