A new multi-year grant from United Way Suncoast (UWS) is helping the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast (BGCS) transform the way it serves more than 21,000 children throughout Pinellas County.
UWS has chosen BGCS as a strategic community partner, helping the organization’s continued transition into a new era. To help with these efforts, the UWS recently awarded the club a $592,000 grant over three years to support early learning and workforce development programs.
As BGCS continues to provide a safe and fun place for children to gather outside of school, the club takes an innovative and analytical approach to ensuring its members are on track to graduating from school. high school and have the skills to get a good job. Freddie Williams, CEO and President of BGCS, said the two nonprofits have had a collaborative relationship for decades, and post-Covid, UWS is fine-tuning how it views community investments.
“They started giving more large grants — like the one we had — and then multi-year grants,” Williams said. “But they really want to focus on academic success, early education and financial mobility.”
Williams said teens with plans after high school are one of the strongest predictors of graduation. For example, BGCS works with companies in high-demand sectors to provide children with professional learning opportunities while they are still students.
One company Williams works closely with the club is Bank of America, which allows children to work in its branches, learn customer service and help business owners identify beneficial financial products. .
“These kids are making $23 an hour — in high school,” Williams said. “And Bank of America guarantees them a job after they graduate from high school, and then they pay for them to go to college.”
Another full partner in the workforce development program is TD Synnex. Williams said the children worked for the IT company every day after school, under the close supervision of a career coach. He called the mentor, who helps guide students to work, a bridge between the corporate structure and the Boys and Girls Club.
Williams explained that if a child’s productivity is down compared to their classmates, the coach will point out instances of “blunders” and offer advice on how to improve. Club members working at TD Synnex earn $15 an hour, and the company also guarantees them a college scholarship and post-secondary employment.
“We’ve had three seniors graduate, and all three have been offered full-time jobs,” Williams said. “And with the degrees they get…their first year out of high school, they make $45-$60,000. First year of high school. »
United Way funding, Williams said, pays career coaches, provides job placement opportunities and ensures children have access to real-life experiences. He added that the three-year commitment also helps the organization put down roots and plan for longer-term results.
Previously, Williams explained, the club had only focused on showing the impact of a program the following year. He said the BGCS can now show other students what former members are doing three years into their new career or university.
Williams noted the impact the workforce development program could have on a child’s life by telling the story of a teenager working with TD Synnex. He said the student was a high school student living in a single-parent family and just weeks before graduation, his mother died of a drug overdose.
Williams said it would be easy for someone in this situation to spiral out of control. Instead, the child became “laser-focused” and maintained her home through a steady job that led to a career.
“And he attributes hope for the future through his work at TD Synnex to helping him get through a very difficult time,” Williams said. “Knowing that it wasn’t the end for him, he could make a name for himself and grow in a career.”
The BGCS Early Childhood Education program, Williams said, ensures children are reading at their appropriate level in third grade. He explained that the organization chose the third year because acquiring the necessary literary skills at that age is another strong predictor of graduation.
BGCS provides certified reading coaches and reading intervention teachers from Pinellas County schools to its members, who already know the children and the latest teaching methodologies. Williams said the specialists translate a school’s curriculum into the club’s atmosphere, so younger kids have fun while they learn.
“We have this concept called ‘Chilling with Books,’ where they just develop this love for reading,” Williams said. “But it’s really part of this larger program where they play games, and it’s related to literacy.
“And then in the background we have data analysts who calculate all the kids’ data and their earnings on a daily basis, and then we can correct the course every week to make sure we keep them motivated and happy and happy. they could see their progress.
Williams said a key goal for BGCS is to prevent the summer slide, which describes the learning loss that occurs when children are away from school for two or three months. According to the latest data from the summer of 2021, he said 90% of members had increased their literary scores through the initiative – without realizing they were attending a literacy program.
As a former member, Williams recalled that when he was growing up the club’s slogan was “the place that beats the streets”. The national organization then moved to “the positive place for children”. The slogan is now ‘great futures start here’, and Williams said the club is dedicated to ensuring children read at school level, stay on track to graduate, lead positive lives and become good citizens.
“At the end of the day, it’s amazing what we’re able to do when kids can read,” Williams said. “They graduate from high school and have a career, and a career in big business that allows them to travel the world and go wherever they want.
“And really, that’s how you disrupt generational poverty.”
For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast, visit the website here.