At age 6, Jalese Stone attended her first day at the Clem & Ann Buenger Boys & Girls Club, where she quickly found herself surrounded by friends and mentors that would leave a lasting impression. Like many kids who attend the after-school program, Jalese came from a home full of strife, where her single mother struggled to raise Jalese and siblings on her own, with no help from an abusive father. But Jalese was fortunate enough to ahve an entire staff on her side that offered her more than just sympathy and support — they showed her she could forge a new path for herself.
Over the years, Jalese took on leadership roles at the Club, got involved with community service organizations, and played varsity volleyball at her high school, where she was also an outstanding honors student. In 2013, Jalese was named the Club’s Youth of the Year.
“The path I am on today was not only created in spite of bad examples,” Jalese said in her acceptance speech, “but inspired by the positive ones I was exposed to at the Club. The Boys & Girls Club means family to me. It showed me that there are people out there who truly care about me and want to see me succeed by being there every step of the way.”
As outstanding as Jalese is, stories like hers are not unheard of when it comes tot eh kids of the Boys & Girls Club. In spite of the fact that most children fail to leave behind their stressful home lives, the Boys & Girls Club’s numbers don’t lie: to date, 74% of members increased their reading proficiency, 79% increased their math proficiency, and 100% of members graduated on time from high school. It all comes down to a well-researched, proven schedule for success.
The Boys & Girls Club takes a three-pronged approach (GRADUATE, FIT FOR LIFE and READY TO SERVE), focusing on education, health and wellness and service learning. Kids spend 45 minutes in each of these areas, whether working on homework with certified teachers, playing basketball or dancing, or joining a community cleanup or other service project. It’s all followed by a free hot meal.
But it doesn’t end there. Although kids phase out of the Club when they’re 18, they don’t leave without a plan for their future in place, according to Vice President of Development Karen Williams. She explains that the Club focuses on what they call the three E’s for their junior and senior members: Enrolled, Enlisted or Employed. “We want to help them have a plan in place,” she says, whether that plan means enrolled in a four- or two-year college, enlisted in the military or employed in a successful career. The mission of the Boys & Girls Club goes beyond just filling those vulnerable after-school and summer hours, Williams explains. “It’s also about how to keep the support going after they leave us.”
In Jalese’s case, the mission was accomplished. Today, she is enjoying her junior year in college as a pre-med student. “Without the care and compassion of the staff at the Boys & Girls Club, my life and my future wouldn’t be as bright. The Club convinced me that I could be great, so greatness is what I strive for every day.”
Learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati at BGCGC.ORG.