From Backpacks to Briefcases
By Vincent Lyles
President & CEO of Greater Milwaukee Boys & Girls Clubs
In order to create a vibrant place, offering many choices, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee continues to rely on nearly 200 partners in the community to provide complementary services and meet the needs of our youth.
Milwaukee Public Schools
Our biggest partnership is with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). With thirty 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CLCs) located across the city in MPS, Boys & Girls Clubs ensures that members can easily and safely access their local Clubs.
This strategy also allows us to focus our energy and resources on building innovative and impactful programming, instead of focusing on capital projects and maintenance costs.
Our partnership with MPS began in 1999, when the Todd Wehr Metcalfe Park Community Center was built to include both the Ralph H. Metcalfe School and the Roger and Leona Fitzsimonds Boys & Girls Club – arguably the first in the nation to house both a school and community center.
Boys & Girls Clubs has been a pioneer in placing Club sites right inside schools ever since.
MPS students now can flow freely from school to the Club each day and this helps give them familiarity and structure.
We also employ some school staff who can extend their expertise after school, which better prepares kids for their tests and homework assignments.
More than 4,600 children access our Clubs every day, and this is in large part due to our location in neighborhoods where kids need us most.
Hunger Task Force and Social Development Commission
In addition to providing convenient and safe places, the Clubs provide a meal for every member at no cost each day. Nearly 1 million meals were served to kids at the Clubs in 2013.
In order to provide this essential service to children, we rely on partners like the Social Development Commission (SDC) and Hunger Task Force. During the summer, Hunger Task Force serves meals to our members over the age of 12 who are not funded through the Federal Dependent aid program.
Currently, 83 percent of our members qualify for free or reduced lunch; our partnership with Hunger Task Force and SDC provides critical support to families who struggle to afford healthy, substantial meals when their kids are not in school.
Ripple Effect Milwaukee: Spreading Peace and Building Communities
Under the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Violence Prevention Initiative, Boys & Girls Clubs has collaborated with Journey House, the Milwaukee Public Theater, Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, and Casa Romero to create Ripple Effect Milwaukee (REM).
The collective goal is to decrease the rates of violence in identified areas of Milwaukee and strengthen the community to prevent future violence.
More than 400 young people participated in REM programming last year thanks to this initiative at seven Clubs in Milwaukee.
While this program is still in its infancy, it is having a positive influence on hundreds of youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
One of the key elements of the program is for older youth to present what they’ve learned, for example, a drama performance centered on nonviolence, to younger members, thus having a ripple effect on younger generations.
Bright Futures for Milwaukee’s Kids
In order to provide kids with the best chance for future success, organizations in our community need to work together.
From basic needs, to academic support to healthy relationships, Boys & Girls Clubs will continue to seek out new collaborations to ensure our members have the best choices when it comes to their well-being and the best opportunities to reach their full potential.
I encourage you to consider who you might be able to work with in order to move the needle forward on Milwaukee’s issues. Together, we can always move beyond where we can go alone.
Until my next column, you’re invited to visit a Boys & Girls Club nearest you.
Visit our website at www.boysgirlsclubs. org to find a location. Keep up-to-date about Boy & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through www.facebook.com/bgcmilwaukee, on Twitter at @bgcmilwaukee, or at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.