I state it in almost every blog post I write here, because our mission is central to everything we do. The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah County is to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive and responsible citizens and leaders. The Boys & Girls Clubs accomplish this mission by providing evidence-based programs with a focus on programs that improve academic engagement, build character, and that improve healthy behaviors.
We envision a future in which the Boys & Girls Club Movement is a catalyst for an age in which success is within reach of every child, and whole generations of children are inspired to a level of civic engagement not seen since the founding of our nation.
This mission and vision are attainable. We prove that each and every year through the programs we run. Because of the success of these programs, we start new programs each year. In fact, this year we started three! These programs work, and parents are overwhelmingly supportive. While we appreciate that, we recognize that we can do more and reach more young people in the county.
Prior to working here at the Boys & Girls Clubs, I studied sociology at BYU, and took a special interest in urban life and education. One of my professors assigned us to read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He begins by discussing the ‘Matthew Effect,’ which essentially states that those people who are already more successful than others are the ones most likely given the kinds of opportunities which lead to further success. (30)
For whatever reason, we live in a culture that views success as a highly individual achievement. Gladwell states early on, “In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work.” (19) He continues by saying that “success is the result of what sociologists like to call ‘accumulative advantage.’” (30)
[People who achieve success] are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot… (19)
“The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.” (11)
In large and small ways, our society affects today’s youth, and has a huge impact on their future successes and failures. Yes, hard work and dedication are important, so is talent, however, none of these things on their own are enough. Not everyone is born in equal situations, but there are ways these differences can be leveled. Where education and opportunity are concerned, the Boys & Girls Club Movement is proud to be an organization that helps all young people towards success. Right there in our vision statement it states “we envision a future in which the Boys & Girls Club Movement is a catalyst for an age in which success is within reach of every child.” In fact, this is what our Great Futures Campaign is all about.
There are some unsettling statistics about young people in our country. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America reports that:
- 1 in 5 high school students fail to graduate on time,
- 1 in 5 youth in America lives in poverty,
- Juvenile crime escalates between the hours of 3-7p.m., and
- 3 out of 10 young people are obese or overweight.
The Great Futures Campaign is an unprecedented initiative to mobilize our nation and ensure that America’s youth, especially those who need us most, graduate from high school on time with a plan for the future; demonstrate good character and citizenship; and live a healthy lifestyle.
An important part of the Great Futures Campaign is opening doors and providing opportunities that may not otherwise be available for the young people we serve, especially those most in need of what we have to offer. One of my favorite blog posts I’ve written so far in my time working here, led me to an article where Joan Higginbotham stated “You can’t do something if you don’t know it exists.”
Club members at each site have the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of new things. Through STEM initiatives and arts activities, students can explore a wide array of interests and find new roads and paths, which lead them to brighter futures and opportunities they didn’t know were available. In fact, just a few weeks ago, Samsung completed renovation on a room at our Provo Clubhouse and donated tablets and software for Club Members to explore and learn about STEM.
The successes of our Club Members, both now and in the future, are of paramount importance to us. We dedicate ourselves daily to ensuring that great futures really do start here.