By Michelle Strubeck for Seward City News-
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a nationwide organization that is over a century old. Their mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as caring, productive and responsible citizens. The Seward chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America was established in 2001, making it the most recent addition on this side of the Kenai Peninsula. It is its own entity with the main office located in Kenai and three to four clubs in the Kenai area.
Seward Unit Director Maggie Wilkins explained that the mission of the Seward club is to be an after school program, not daycare. It provides structure, quality programming and funding for activities. She went on to say that there is evidence-based research showing that organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America help to improve students’ academic and social skills.
The Seward club has one hundred students enrolled in the program with an average daily attendance of thirty to forty. The Seward club meets Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 P.M. at the Seward Elementary School library during the school year. The program is for children in grades K-6. The kids participate in science activities, crafts, and cooking units. There is also a strong emphasis on physical education. Each day, thirty minutes are set aside for homework and reading and the computer lab is available for use. Maggie mentioned that some students don’t have access to a computer outside of school and this gives them an opportunity to develop their computer skills. While the computer time is limited, it is still an important skill to have considering the technology-driven world we live in.
As part of the Seward club, the kids take part in a three fold program called Triple Play. The Triple Play program is funded through the Providence Seward Community Benefit Partnership Grant. It focuses on youth health in the areas of body, mind and soul. The body component of the program encourages physical education, not only for health reasons, but to help build confidence as well. The mind component of the program teaches kids to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition and that healthy does not equal boring. The soul component of the program is about social competence. The kids work on their social skills and cooperative learning. The grant has also helped to purchase equipment for the club.
Feedback from parents about the program is very positive. With a majority of the homework getting done at the Boys and Girls Club, parents are grateful for more quality time with their kids. Encouraging family time is just one aspect of the program and, as Maggie stated, it takes a village to raise a child. When children are exposed to more social settings, they tend to do better overall. Having mentors in life is important as well. Middle school and high school students are encouraged to sign up and volunteer their time as tutors with the Seward club. The village will help children succeed and excel in life.
Being part of the village that helps raise children is one of the many components that Maggie enjoys about her job. Her love for kids goes back to when she was a kid herself. In high school she worked as a camp counselor. During her college years she worked with inner city kids, taking them on rock climbing trips to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She then went on to become a preschool teacher. Once Maggie found herself in Seward, she spent 8 1/2 years working with Parks and Recreation. She also spent time working at the Teen Youth Center. Over the course of her career, she has worked with all age ranges from kindergarten to adulthood. She went on to say that working at the Boys and Girls Club is refreshing because they are part of the private sector where there is no complacency among co-workers. The people are there because they want to be there and they are passionate about what they do. There is a great energy among everyone.
Maggie also explained that having the Seward club meet at the elementary school offers a great sense of community. Not only is the location familiar and convenient, but there are no transportation issues and there are plenty of opportunities to interact with the teachers and build relationships and a rapport with them. It offers a great chance for everyone to get to know each other. Being in a school setting has also given Maggie a new level of appreciation for what teachers do in a day. Teachers often stay late to work with students, and prepare lesson plans for the next day. There are also behavior management skills that have to be addressed and all of this is done with no overtime.
If you are interested in enrolling your child in the Seward chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, contact Maggie Wilkins at 907-224-7001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.