I wish that I could say I came into this organization and changed it into something amazing, but there is already an outstanding staff and long term team that makes BGCP a special place. If anything, I got more out of my time with Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland than I could have ever hoped to give.
During my first week at the organization, I attended several trainings and a full-time staff meeting, where I learned about changes and other implementations that had occured in the last fiscal year, including hiring, training, fundraising and revamping of the BGCP mission statement to reflect its members and team. That was my first clue that this was a great place.
This was the old mission statement:
“To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Here is the new mission statement:
“To empower all young people, especially those who need us most, to discover their full potential as caring, engaged, responsible community members.”
I have now been at BGCP for 10 week - almost 3 months. Thinking back to that initial meeting, the teamwork and respect I witnessed is the main reason why I believe BGCP is what it is. BGCP is a safe, fun, interactive and, most importantly, a member-oriented place.
I have spent my fellowship focused on the Youth of the Year (YOY) leadership development program geared towards 9th-12th graders. The main goal was to help implement the program in the summer months to take a bulk of the work off of the Fall term. I worked hard to create workshops and activities for the larger themes of the program, including but not limited to writing essays, one's personal brand, interviewing, and public speaking. I wanted to create a foundation and internal structure to allow for a continuous execution of YOY.
Turns out, trying to coordinate teenagers in the summer is just as hard as one would expect. Obstacles occurred constantly, and I found my goals shifting; in order to even hope to create a sound structure for upcoming years, I needed to learn what the teens today wanted and needed. In the 7 years since I started high school and the 3 since I graduated, not much has actually changed. Teens need outlets, they need someone to listen to them and believe them. I spent quite a few days working on workshops or researching things as I watched the front desk or provided an extra staff body in the Club and I can say I learned a lot more talking to the teens then I did in research online.
They made it possible for me to realize that a conversation about social media use was going to be more effective than a lecture or presentation on internet safety. They questioned everything I did and said, which reminded me of curiosity instead of defiance. They are tactful and insistent - the teens know what they want and have very little interest in taking no as an answer. What I hope to have done is take these skills they already have and give them spaces and mechanisms to use them for their future.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area serves about 4,200 youth ages 6-18, but this summer BGCP taught this 20-year-old to not let go of my energy, my curiosity and my desire to change things. I’ll be finishing my Bachelors degree in less than a year, but I plan on getting a Masters in Education Leadership and can’t wait to see what comes next.