I am one of 38 board members for the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda. The Boys & Girls Club of Alameda was founded in 1949, and its tradition of excellence continues to this day.
Today, the closing bell will ring in Alameda schools and roughly 10,000 students will leave their school grounds. Some will go home to a parent, some will go to an after school program. But many will go it alone — and will enter the most dangerous time of the day for children. Research indicates that youth-related crime triples between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. every weekday. National statistics and daily headlines make it clear that unsupervised children are at greater risk in the after-school hours.
The Boys & Girls Club of Alameda is more than just a place for recreation. We provide activities and experiences that enrich the lives of young people in our community. Indeed, the quality of life we all enjoy is due, in part, to the Club's sustained attention to the changing needs of today's youth. We involve young boys and girls in wholesome activities that build their self-esteem and self-worth. We teach the values of responsibility and respect. We empower children to make wise and educated life choices. In today's age of teen alcohol and drug use, premarital sex and violence, we work to help create model citizens for our future. We give every youth the chance they deserve to have a great future by providing the tools and support they need to achieve their dreams. [alamedabgc.org]
My favorite part about the club is that the boys and girls cannot play any of the games until their homework is done.
Today I attended a fundraiser for the club — our Building Great Futures Luncheon. One of our luncheon speakers was a parent.
"When we first dropped Kylie off at the club, she would cry. It broke our hearts, but as working parents, we both had to get to our jobs. Now Kylie complains if we come to pick her up early."
— Eileen Galindo Franco, mother of an Boys & Girls Club of Alameda member
Something that made the luncheon quite special was that it featured former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Condoleezza Rice served as the 66th and second female but first African-American female United States Secretary of State. She was also President Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position. Dr. Rice serves as Vice Chair on the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Board of Governors and is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of political science at Stanford University.
As Secretary of State, Dr. Rice got to travel the world and learn what people thought of this country. Everyone, especially those living under tyranny, believes that democracy is this country's gift to the world. The right to govern ourselves makes America one of the most individualistic countries on earth. If someone denies us our rights, we're willing to take them all the way to the Supreme Court. Despite this, America is also one of the most communitarian countries in the world, filled with volunteerism and philanthropy. Organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda help tackle one of the biggest threats to democracy — the state of K-12 education in this country. America has the shortest school day and the shortest school year, so it's no wonder that our children are falling behind students in other countries. Also, only 30% of those who take the basic skills test to enter military service can pass it. This is a sad fact in that every child, regardless of circumstance, deserves to rise to the plane of the educated person. Thankfully, the Boys & Girls Club is providing a safe place for children to learn and grow to help sustain our democracy.
Dr. Rice's keynote was followed by a teen panel discussion where she told them:
- Although college is expensive, the resulting benefits of a brighter mind and higher paying job make it worth the cost. Online courses and scholarships can help reduce some of the expenses.
- Although social media allows information to be immediate, it does not improve accuracy. "If the only people you socialize with say 'Amen' to everything you post, you need to broaden your circle of friends." We need dissenting opinions to sustain democracy.
- Although making schools safer is a challenge, and she defended the 2nd amendment, she acknowledged that no ordinary citizen needs military grade weaponry.
In addition to Dr. Rice, the event featured Ja'Nylah Johnson who is the club's 2018 Youth of the Year.
At just 17, Ja'Nylah was our first girl to make it to the California State Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Competition two years in a row. After advancing as the top 3 competitors in the NorCal finals in March, Ja'Nylah and the eight other California State Youth of the Year competitors went to the California State Capitol, met with their State Legislative leaders, and lobbied for awareness of issues impacting teens such as gun violence and the need for continued youth development services. Currently, Ja'Nylah is the club's Mighty Missy's Girls Group President and Keystone Club President and is founder of its Middle School Healthy Lifestyles Girls Group. [alamedabgc.org]
As a prelude to Dr.Rice's speech, Ja'Nylah shared her personal struggle and how she felt worthless, hopeless, and powerless about her life before becoming a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda. Having turned her life around, she wants all of her peers to know that they can be who they want to be, thanks to the Boys & Girls Club.
Proceeds from the event help the Alameda club continue to provide our high-impact youth development programs and services, skilled and caring adult mentorship, and a positive, safe environment for over 4,000 Alameda youth.
- Operating the club costs $1M per year with only 5% to 7% being covered by membership fees.
- Membership is $100 per year, but money is collected on a sliding scale based on ability to pay, with few paying the amount in full. About 30% pay nothing at all. No child is turned away based on the ability to pay.
- The remaining 93% to 95% of the costs are covered by sponsors, partnerships, and donations.
I am happy to be part of such an endeavor. Donations are always welcome.
Serving youth is alive in the lab.