Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana open new doorways for native youngsters

On a current afternoon, youngsters excitedly hurried off a Lafayette faculty bus on the Jackie Unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana. Some headed straight for the basketball courtroom, desirous to spend time exterior after being at school all day. Others went inside, the place they had been greeted by smiling employees members and settled in for homework, video games and snacks.

For tons of of Acadiana kids, the Boys and Girls Clubs are a protected haven, a spot the place they know that employees and volunteers will assist them meet their primary wants whereas offering them with tutorial help, wholesome life-style tips and classes in good character and citizenship.

“We hear stories every day about how the Clubs were there for kids when no else was, or they needed a meal and their local Club was there to feed them,” stated Rhyan Wheeler, chief govt officer of Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana. “The Club has been the support system for a lot of kids who needed us, and many of them have gone on to great success. They have excelled in school, gone on to post-secondary education and/or entered the workforce and become productive citizens in our communities.”

Most Boys and Girls Clubs applications are geared in direction of youngsters ages six to 12, though Wheeler stated they proceed to broaden programming for teenagers. When a toddler arrives at a Club unit, they begin off by doing homework or an enrichment exercise, then transfer on to programming. All kinds of applications are supplied, together with bodily exercise, Kids within the Kitchen, which teaches about wholesome consuming; actions centered on science, know-how, engineering and math; art work and extra. In addition, kids have entry to computer systems to finish schoolwork or develop into extra aware of know-how. Boys & Girls Clubs play an important position in closing the digital divide for college students with out entry to know-how.  



A core mission of the Boys and Girls Club is bridging the digital divide. Kids can use computer systems at membership websites to do homework and construct technical expertise.




“A lot of people think we are a babysitting service, but we are far from that,” Wheeler stated. “We are actually part of a national organization and the programs that we use are evidence based. We know they result in positive outcomes. When kids come here, they are able to have fun in a safe environment, but are also given the opportunity to have a great and bright future.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs additionally present a wanted outlet for youths who’re fighting social and emotional points. Wheeler stated that native employees members seen the affect that the pandemic was having on youngsters, particularly since they missed in-person engagement with others and had been fighting different impacts of the virus. In response, Acadiana employees have been skilled in trauma-informed care and methods to combine emotional wellness into all of their applications.

“We check in with kids each day to see how they are doing, what they need and how we can help if needed,” Wheeler stated. “When you see these kids all the time, you can tell when a kid is having an off day. Our staff is incredible in the way they will pull a child aside and ask them what’s going on. Most likely, a kid will open up about challenges they are having, and our staff is trained to help them work through those emotions.”



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Boys and Girls Clubs give youngsters an opportunity to construct socialization expertise with others.




Local employees have found that artwork and drama is a well-liked method for youths to specific themselves and have develop into extra dedicated to creating certain that creativity is part of their days. For instance, the Jackie Unit is full of drawings made by youngsters, with their work showcased on posters and ceiling tiles. Wheeler stated that one afternoon within the spring, many youngsters got here out of their shells as they acted out scenes from the Disney film “Encanto.”

“When you think about social and emotional wellness, art is a way for them to have an outlet to express their feelings and connect with the other kids,” she stated.

With the help of the Boys and Girls Clubs, Wheeler stated many Lafayette-area youth have gone on to win state Youth of the Year awards and embrace management alternatives on the Clubs, of their faculties and of their communities. That success has impressed the Clubs to broaden even additional all through South Louisiana. Currently, Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana has seven places in six parishes, with the newest additions in Lake Charles and Natchitoches. As the group appears to the longer term, Wheeler stated there may be optimism about including extra applications for teenagers, particularly round workforce coaching and faculty readiness, in addition to creating extra group partnerships.

“We can’t function without support from the community, whether it’s time, talent or treasure,” Wheeler stated. “We need the whole community to surround the kids who are going to be our future generations, so it is incredibly important that people get involved. We encourage volunteers to think about how they want to give back and visit a Club. We’ve had someone come and teach kids to play golf. Someone came to teach them to play chess. We’re open to all experiences because we know our kids get excited about those new opportunities.”

For extra data or to volunteer with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana, go to www.bgcacadiana.com.

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