ALAMEDA -- Alameda Boys & Girls Club recently announced a new partnership with Ross Stores, Inc., to support the club's Power Hour program, an interactive after-school homework assistance program for members ages 6 to 18.
The program offers the opportunity for club staff to support youth in developing a positive attitude about learning while emphasizing the importance of high school graduation.
"The generous support from Ross Stores shows their dedication to supporting academic success for youth in our community and communities nationwide," said Jeff Miller, ABGC's chief professional officer, in a press release. "We know that regular participation in after-school educational programs like Power Hour can help address the high-school dropout crisis while enabling youth to achieve academic success."
Power Hour is just one of many programs offered at the Boys & Girls Club, which opened a new 25,000-square-foot Youth Development Center in May 2011. In March 2012, the club received a "Real Estate Deal of the Year" award from the San Francisco Business Times in the category of "best community impact outside San Francisco."
The club offers a wide range of programs and services, with more on the horizon. Farm-to-table nutritional cooking and canning, financial competence, business management and videojournalism are just a few of the skills taught by the club's staff and volunteers. Young members can receive on-site dental screening and individual and family counseling. Some club members are involved in sports and recreation activities, including a running group that trains and then participates in local East Bay races, while others perform in the club's choral group and drum corps.
Bill Moore heads the technology center and digital arts program. The program begins with basic computer literacy, moving on to more advanced skills that will prepare middle and high schoolers for college and beyond. Moore seems thrilled to be able to offer this curriculum to club members, many of whom do not have a computer at home. This is challenging not only in terms of homework completion and research, but puts kids at a disadvantage compared to more privileged peers. The Digital Arts Program aims to eliminate the educational and confidence gap that results when some kids lack access to technology.
Moore is currently collaborating with the JASON Project, a nonprofit organization that encourages students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math ("STEM") fields. JASON was founded in 1989 by oceanography professor and maritime archeologist Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the shipwrecked Titanic. It offers extracurricular exploration programs and camps that make science more interesting and accessible to kids.
Moore believes this could be a life-changing opportunity for kids at the Boys and Girls Club, who will soon have the chance to watch live underwater explorations and talk in real-time with divers about what they are seeing.
"JASON wants to put kids in personal contact with engineers, mathematicians, scientists -- all these experts are available to them for questions," Moore said. "It shows these kids that they can do whatever they want to do."
Along with national organizations like JASON, the club also relies on local groups and individuals to help them help Alameda's young people.
Golden State Warriors rookie small forward Harrison Barnes was a Boys and Girls Club member in his home town of Ames, Iowa. When he signed on with the Warriors, he named the club as his favorite chartable organization. For each home game this season, Barnes donates tickets to a different Boys & Girls Club in the Bay Area. The Harrison Barnes Tickets for Education Program hosts 15 club members that have excelled academically during the 2012-13 school year. The Alameda club recently took its turn, young members sitting in a special section called the "Falcon's Nest" after Barnes' nickname, "The Black Falcon."
Diane Cunningham Rizzo, director of development and community relations, said the night was an unforgettable experience for the 35 Alameda club members who attended.
"They met all the players, toured the locker rooms and had great seats for the game," she said. "Barnes wants to show them what is possible if you work hard."
The night highlighted an ongoing obstacle in the lives of club members: lack of transportation. Low-income parents are often unable to get their sons and daughters to field trip destinations; many work long hours and some do not have access to a car. Some young people who can get to the Boys and Girls Club cannot find a way to the many youth enrichment activities available in the East Bay; others live far enough away from the club's location that membership itself is difficult. To get everyone to the Warriors game, the club relied on vans donated by the Oakland Airport Hilton.
"It's a constant obstacle for Alameda's low-income youth," Cunningham Rizzo said. "Lack of transportation causes the club to miss so many opportunities -- so it's something we're working on."
Overall, Cunningham Rizzo and Moore are excited about the club's successes and future plans.
"What we've built in the last two years is self esteem," Moore said. "Some of the kids used to be embarrassed, wouldn't talk ... Now I have at least 15 kids who come in and show me their report cards. Self-esteem has grown so much. I'm so proud of them for what they've done."