The Boys and Girls Club is more than a place to hang out. It is transformational.
Sean McCartney is the executive director of the El Dorado County Western Slope chapter. “Try to imagine a more vital resource than the next generation,” he waved a hand at a class of young people. “The only link we have to a brighter tomorrow. People call them Millennials, I call them ‘the future.’ Right now they’re between 6 and 18 years old. They’ll cure cancer, colonize Mars and bring peace to this Earth. Each of them is valuable, sought, welcomed and embraced right here.”
The club’s three county locations, Placerville, Pollock Pines and Georgetown, welcome 360 children every day, supported by 32 employees and many volunteers. An hour spent at the Placerville Clubhouse in the National Guard Armory, 212 Armory Dr., reveals how deeply these children are cherished and nourished.
The familiar Boys and Girls Clubs of America came together in Hartford, Con., over 100 years ago. The local club started up in 1999. McCartney elaborated, “Our mission is to be the catalyst for character, which leads to growth in self-esteem, community responsibility and respect for others. It will be manifested and measured in a thousand ways.”
The club refines its mission into programs, projects and rewards, exemplified by the prestigious Youth of the Year, an all-ages award for academic performance, moral character, life goals, and poise and public speaking ability.
For boys and girls ages 11-13, the nationally respected Torch Club, sponsored by Staples, Inc. represents comprehensive small-group leadership and service.
Project Learn involves opportunities for writing activities, homework help, tutoring and cognitive skills games. It also emphasizes parental and school involvement, critical factors for club members ages 6-18.
Power Hour helps club members ages 6-12 be more successful in school by providing homework help and tutoring and encourages members to become self-directed learners.
SMART Girls is a health, fitness, prevention/education and self-esteem enhancement program designed to meet the developmental needs of girls ages 8-12 and 13-17.
Street SMART counteracts the negative lures of gangs, violence and street influences on young adolescents ages 11-13. They are taught how gangs work and how to resist being recruited, how to recognize and resolve conflicts peacefully, how to respect the similarities and differences of others.
The arts program enables youth to develop their creativity and cultural awareness through the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing.
Triple Play is a Game Plan for Mind, Body and Soul. This program takes a holistic approach to educating boys and girls about good nutrition, making physical fitness a daily practice and developing individual strengths and good character. And so it goes with specific programs designed for every age group; from computer skills to money management, from health and self-image to career exploration.
McCartney is second generation club director. His father ran the operation in Tracy. “I saw the difference he made in those kids’ lives.” After graduating from Humboldt State in 1998, McCartney developed the Stockton Club. He recalls, “For many it was the only safe place they knew. In 20 years maybe they won’t remember a specific event from their club days, but they will remember a teacher, a mentor.”
The Boys and Girls Club produces outreach events each year, relies on grants and donations, and welcomes volunteers to help with homework and reading.
Sean McCartney can be reached at 530-295-8019, or e-mail [email protected] Check out the Website bgce.org.