The Boys and Girls Club: A Second Home
|An outing at the beach. Photo provided by Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.
Every day after school, each young child and teenager who walks through the doors of the New Haven Boys and Girls Club is welcomed by name and given a high five. An afternoon packed with activity awaits them, from homework help, to art and technology projects, to basketball and other athletics. But it’s the personal attention from caring mentors that is at the core of club’s mission to inspire young people to realize their full potential.
“It all starts with the people here,” says Executive Director Stephanie Barnes. “That’s why kids keep coming back. They are aware that someone is going to greet them with a smile and ask them, ‘How was your day?’ They get here and they know it’s their second home.”
The New Haven Boys and Girls Club, founded as a boys club in 1871, has been a second home for generations of young people. Many of the current members have parents and grandparents who came to the clubhouse when they were children, according to Barnes.
Staff and volunteer mentors get to know each young person individually, says Barnes, which creates a culture where young people feel emotionally safe and supported.
“This is a safe zone. Kids can discover their passion here. They are making healthier choices and being more intentional about where they see themselves in the future,” says Barnes.
Now serving more than 1,100 children and teenagers annually at its Columbus Avenue clubhouse and three satellite locations, the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven offers a holistic program that serves not only the children, but also their families and schools.
“We are part of that network that wraps around a child to support positive outcomes,” says Barnes.
|Mentoring is at the heart of the club's mission. Photo provided by the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.
Those positive outcomes include 95 percent of its youth members advancing to the next grade level, according to Barnes. Based on a child’s need, he or she is paired with a college-aged or adult mentor who can provide academic or homework help. The mentors also provide a listening ear and emotional guidance.
“It’s not clinical,” says Barnes. “Sometimes they just shoot pool together.”
Partnerships with area artists, the Yale Glee Club, AAU basketball, and other organizations allow the club to offer a wide menu of activities for young people to discover their interests.
Because the organization serves many kids from low-income households, memberships are free or offered at reduced cost for many families. As a result, the club relies on funding from a variety of sources including The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, United Way of Greater New Haven, contracts with the schools and housing authority, the state, and individual contributions. The Community Foundation is a longtime funder and recently awarded the organization a three-year general operating grant of $70,000.
Barnes said that a proposed state budget cut to neighborhood youth centers would impact Boys and Girls Clubs across the state.
To learn more The Boys and Girls Club of New Haven, visit its profile on giveGreater.org.
Did you Know?
The Boys and Girls Club of New Haven is always recruiting volunteers and mentors. Training is offered throughout the year. Learn more here.
This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.