A Safe Place to Learn and Grow

I start this week with an invitation to you to play a quick round of Jeopardy, I will share several "answers" and see if you can come up with the correct question. This version of Jeopardy is slightly different than the TV version in that all of these answers are answers to just one question. Here are the answers-now see if you can come up with the question that goes with all of these answers.

  • A place where some 82,000 Native American youth in 25 states can go for youth development programs.
  • An organization with locations in over 1,500 schools, where youth can stay and attend after school program during the school year and benefit from programming over the summer as well.
  • An organization that impacts over 4 million children and teens every year in 4,100 different locations throughout the US. A place where children of American military personnel on over 400 military bases can gather for care, and support while their parents serve their country.
  • An organization with locations in over 300 public housing locations, engaging and guiding children and teens right in their neighborhoods.
  • An organization that counts as some of its alumni people like Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, General Wesley Clark, Martin Sheen, Usher, Ashanti, Shaun White, Shaquille O'Neal, and Jim Collins (a keynote speaker at this year's conference).
  • An organization whose purpose is to provide "a safe place to learn and grow--all while having fun," for all of it's children.
  • The logo for this organization appears at the top of the column.

And the question is..."What is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America?"

Excuse me if I'm a little excited about this organization, but my wife, Holly, and I have just spent two days at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) National Conference in Chicago and we are inspired! 2,500 leaders in BGCA clubs from all fifty states came together for two days of workshops on leadership and program development. A primary focus this year was how to best serve teens in our communities.

Holly and I had the joy of speaking with hundreds of BGCA staff, board members, and volunteers who have dedicated themselves to giving children and youth "a safe place to learn and grow," many for several decades. Living Compass is honored to be working with the Boys & Girls Club of Milwaukee, WI as they are using our Living Compass Wellness Program for Teens to support their work in helping kids make good choices and building strong character. They suggested we attend this conference so we could connect with other clubs around the country who are also working to help youth navigate their way to a better future.

One of the things I learned at the conference this week and that was most inspiring is that the BGCA has set a goal of getting the youth it serves to provide a total of 1 million hours of community service nation wide annually. I had thought that the BGCA solely provided community service to those it serves. In reality, the BGCA is asking the youth it serves to turn around and offer 1 million hours of community service to others. This service might include writing letters to troops serving far away, organizing a food or coat drive, distributing flyers for a community non-profit, or volunteering at an animal shelter. The Boys and Girls Club knows, and research shows, that community service is the ideal "curriculum" for character development and that youth involved in community service are more likely to graduate from high school and are more likely to avoid risk-taking behavior.

Now that is a wellness lesson for all of us, youth and adults alike. Community service truly is an ideal curriculum for character development. When we make time to serve others, when we give of our time, energy, and financial resources to make a difference in our communities, it makes a positive difference in our own emotional and spiritual wellness, as well.

The Boys and Girls Club of America knows that community service helps to create "safe places to learn and grow." Connecting with a BGCA in your community is just one way to be involved in community service, there are obviously countless others. What is one way you, with your unique gifts and talents, you can give back to your community?

It may not be in a Boys and Girls Club but, if you are looking for a way to make a difference in your community, or if you are just looking to be inspired to make a difference in your community, I highly recommend a visit to your local Boys & Girls Club. If your experience is anything like ours this week, you will surely be inspired to do more to serve and make a positive difference in your community.

Thank you Boys and Girls Club for the inspiration!