Hiking to Great Cultural Connections

As part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rosebud’s ongoing commitment to include cultural awareness and a stronger understanding of traditional Lakota values in their programming, their Hiking Club recently took part in the annual Welcome Back the Thunders ceremony in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota – the Heart of Mother Earth. Welcome Back the Thunders is an ancient celestial ceremony which takes place each year during the Spring Equinox.

The Hiking Club meets and hikes regularly, but for this particular event a select group of eight elementary school aged Club members, who are also part of the OJP mentoring program at the Club, were invited to take part in the seven mile hike up to Hinhan Kaga Paha, the tallest mountain in South Dakota. “Hinhan Kaga” is the traditional Lakota name for the mountain peak, and “Making of Owls” is the English translation.

Taylor Schad, the Club’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, and Dion Reynolds, Club Board Member, worked with the surrounding community to plan the trip. The neighboring Boys & Girls Clubs of the Black Hills in Hill City, SD provided their gym for the group’s sleepover the night before the hike. The group woke the next morning to snow on the mountain top!


Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County’s Growing Impact

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County is seeing hard work and perseverance pay off as the organization grows to impact youth in a number of communities across Washington State and a portion of Oregon. Recently, two units of the organization were named as recipients of special opportunities as a result of their involvement in the On the T.R.A.I.L. (Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life) to Diabetes Prevention program.

T.R.A.I.L. participants at the Warm Springs Branch, located in Warm Springs, OR, were given a donation of athletic shoes from the popular athletic brand, Under Armour. The company has pledged to bring supplies and support for sports and physical activities to communities that may not already have access to these resources.

While youth in Warm Springs were equipped to be on the move, another unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish also had the opportunity to grow their movement. The Amerigroup Foundation has partnered with the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, located in Tulalip, WA, to raise awareness and help combat diabetes among local kids and teens. Type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, and affects all Washingtonians, but the risk is higher for American Indian and Alaska Native youth. The Foundation has awarded $20,000 in funding to support health and wellness programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.


Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa County has Fun with the National Fitness Competition

The National Fitness Competition is a BGCA program sponsored by Nestlé. Twice per school year – once in the fall and again in the spring – participating Clubs hold local Fitness Competitions designed to engage and inspire members of all ages, genders, interests and abilities. These one-day events incorporate a variety of fun, "field day"-style activities. Club members have opportunities to "compete against themselves" by tracking their accomplishments and striving for improvement – helping them build intrinsic motivation, confidence, and physical competence.

The Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa County held their own local Fitness Competition on May 7th. They had 11 participants this time, and are hoping to continually increase attendance with each event. Some of the stations the youth participated in were a Shuttle Run, Hula Hoop Challenge, 50-yard Dash, Bulls-Eye (throwing a ball through a hoop from a distance of 25 feet), an Obstacle Course, and a Tug-of-War competition. The Club advertised their T.R.A.I.L. program at this event, and had participating youth prepare a healthy lunch for all participants and families.

All youth that participated in the event got a T-shirt, dog tag necklace, certificate, and the top performers for each age group in each category received a medal. Trophies were also handed out for the three team events. Some of the parents even got involved, and everyone had a great time!

Eight out of the eleven participants are current mentees in the Club’s OJP Mentoring program. The Fitness Competition was designed as a family-centered event, and they were glad to see that most parents stayed to watch their children compete. Parents, as well as former and current mentors, also ran stations at the event. Two parents had so much fun watching their children participate that they even joined in for some "Adults v. Youth" team events!

Ottawa County is planning to host a "preview" Fitness Challenge this summer to get their youth excited about the next official fitness event this fall.

Story written by Maria Olson, AmeriCorps VISTA at Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa County


Young Filmmakers Speak Up in Hawaii

Recently, Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii - Nanakuli Clubhouse’s Young Filmmakers Program has attracted attention throughout the state of Hawaii. The program provides youth ages 8-12 with experience handling video equipment, creating storyboards, researching community issues, and producing videos. The program aims to increase participants’ academic success through several key components of the weekly session that include writing, research, and hands-on learning with technology.

The Club has partnered with Nanaikapono Elementary School, located right next door to the Clubhouse, for the past two years to compete in the statewide ‘Ōlelo Youth Exchange (YXC) video competition. ‘Ōlelo (which in Hawaiian means “to speak”) empowers student voice by airing every student entry on cable television and over the internet. The competition promotes student voices and perspectives around learning, health, the environment, and much more. All entries must focus on an issue that affects the immediate community, Hawaii, or the world. This year the entry from the Nanakuli Clubhouse addressed “The Effects of Cigarettes”. Over 900 videos from across the island were submitted to this year’s competition and the Club’s entry, created by 6th graders Leimomi N., Kekai S. and Lucas C., was chosen as a finalist!

Through the creative and powerful medium of video, the Club members gained self-confidence, were part of something bigger than themselves, and learned the value and importance of speaking out on issues that concern youth. Club staff member, Solomon Alfapada shared, "The greatest impact of the Young Filmmakers Program on our youth is that they can harness their creativity. Youth can take their thoughts and bring it into existence through digital media."


Boys & Girls Club of York County Celebrates Youth of the Year Winner

The Catawba Teen Center, one of five units of Boys & Girls Club of York County in South Carolina, is celebrating its first Youth of the Year honoree, 11th grader Sarah Tucker! The Youth of the Year program honors exceptional Club members who personify the values and character of their Club. Sarah is proud to be the first South Carolina Native Club member to receive this top Boys & Girls Club honor.

In her application essay, Sarah wrote eloquently about how the Club has changed her life, particularly through the adult role models and mentors she spends time with there. Sarah described herself as shy and unmotivated prior to joining the Club. Since becoming a member, she has gained social skills and confidence, and improved her academic performance with the help of onsite tutors. Sarah’s favorite Club memory is traveling with her Club and Catawba Chief Bill Harris to meet President Obama. Spending time with Chief Harris (a long-time mentor at the Club) and participating in Club activities, such as kayaking, has allowed her to grow even closer to her culture and deepen her appreciation of her heritage. “Sarah is a wonderful example to the other youth at the Club and throughout the community,” says Chief Harris.

Sarah is an excellent example of how mentees can grow to become strong community members. In addition to volunteering at local food pantries, she is a role model to younger youth in her school orchestra. Sarah’s orchestra director, Jeremy Shaw, shares that she is “quick to help others when needed, and can often be found assisting them with homework or practice during lunch or after school in the orchestra room.” Congratulations to Sarah and the Boys & Girls Club of York County- Catawba Youth Center for this well-deserved honor!

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