I started my fellowship with Future Leaders in Action with Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland in June and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew what I would be doing would revolve around “Healthy Lifestyles” which is a broad term if I’ve ever heard one.
I have been granted a lot of flexibility and time to do extensive research on how Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland can expand their impact on Healthy Lifestyles - including physical and mental health in youth. In my research, I have found many programs that could be extremely beneficial to youth programs in the future, regardless of location or socio-economic status.
The main goal of Boys & Girls Clubs all across the country is to serve the communities that need them the most.
Boys & Girls Clubs provide a safe place for underserved youth to grow and have fun. During my fellowship, the Club in which I have been working out of has been going through the process of completely closing down; the Rockwood Boys & Girls Club will eventually replace it in a higher-need portion of the Southeast Portland metro area, in Gresham.
It’s a very exciting and critical shift in community attention to work around, but I started to realize that it’s more difficult for me to reach BGCP youth through my Healthy Lifestyles research when I have never been a part of the Club life. This is why I started actively going out to other Clubs (primarily Wattles in farther Southeast Portland, approaching the Rockwood community) in order to get a better feel for how I can help.
I wish I could have experienced the now-closing Club when there were kids attending, but visiting the Clubs in higher-need areas of the community, as well as hearing from expert staff, has given me a feel for the organization's successful and challenging programs and, more specifically, where I can focus my research energies. I have learned more about the socio-economic differences that exist in the Portland area and how they correlate to Healthy Lifestyles.
Ultimately, I believe that more youth and families in the greater Portland and, more specifically, Rockwood community will be impacted by Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland and by their Healthy Lifestyles programs.
One thing in particular that I have discovered in my research of Healthy Lifestyles programs is the huge food deserts that exist in this community and how directly they correlate with income of residents. Because neighborhoods with more money have more access to fresh foods, the residents are healthier and therefore, capable of becoming wealthier.
Some of the programs that I am proposing for BGCP will help work against the impact of these food deserts and create a safe space where youth can prosper and thrive in their community. After all, that is immensely important goal of Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation.