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Bringing Healthy Foods Together with Native Culture for Food Day 2014

Do your Club kids look forward to snack and meal time at your organization? As a program leader, are you trying to juggle healthy eating and preparing traditional foods? When national Food Day came across our radar, we thought this was a great opportunity for Clubs to infuse healthy eating with Native cultures and traditions!

Now, what is Food Day? We had the same question. Briefly, Food Day, celebrated on October 24, is an event that communities, schools, and organizations take part in around the country each year. The purpose of this nationwide celebration is to start a movement towards healthy, affordable, accessible, and sustainable food for all.

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Using data to build your house

Tell us if you’ve felt like this before.

Things are going great at your Club. Attendance records are steady. You have regular volunteers. And the community has taken notice of the positive impact you’re making. Staff members are observing positive changes among your Club members—youth who used to get in trouble at school are now role models for younger members, grades are going up Club-wide, attitudes are improving.

Yup, things are great. You have all the stories you need to talk about the impact you’re making.

Then it comes time to write a grant application. Or an influential community partner wants to make a large donation to your Club. Or BGCA wants to highlight your successes for a newsletter.

What do they ask for? Data.

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Exposing Club Youth to Cultural Rich Programming

Wondering how you can revamp your Club with program material that’s relevant to Native youth? With cultural rich programming, the Boys & Girls Club of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has been educating their Club members about their Native heritage for 18 years. This Club, located in Mayetta, KS, added a Singers and Dancers program in the hopes of exposing their youth to more cultural characteristics and tribal traditions. Since then, the program has gained much attention and the dance group has been asked to perform at local schools and various community events.

Nathan Hale, Executive Director, was proud to share that this program will be performing at the Nelson Atkins Museum as part of the grand opening of its newest Native American Exhibit on September 21, 2014. Seven mentees and 50 Club members will dance at this event and, of those 50, five youth are even more excited to be dancing at their first performance! The dance group was also recently invited to Haskell Indian Nations University to perform during the inauguration ceremony of the University’s new president.

Based on a foundation of Native heritage, this program and other culture-based programs are great outlets for Native youth to explore their historical background. “A lot of kids didn’t grow up on a reservation so we are trying to get back to their tribal roots,” Hale said. This program is meant to excite the youth about their cultural roots and it does just that.

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Keeping the Unengaged Club Kid Engaged

Let us set the scenario for you. Club kids are going back to school, meaning after school programming is kicking off. You have a grant funded program, or multiple programs, starting that require you to complete educational lessons and activities. In your group of kids, there is a chance that you see a combination of the following three types of participants.

  1. There is the “self-motivated” participant who cannot wait for the lesson to start, answers questions when asked, and does all activities with enthusiasm.
  2. There is the “going through the motions” participant who may think the lessons are unimportant, but listens quietly and completes the activities because that is what is expected.
  3. Finally, there is the “unengaged” participant who seems to have no interest in what lesson you are facilitating and will do everything but what is being asked.

Now if you have a group of “self-motivated” participants only, then please let us know your best practices! (Really, we would love to share with others.) But if you have a few Club kids in mind that either go through the motions to get things done or are completely unengaged, read on!

Engaging the unengaged has been a task that educators and program leaders have been trying to tackle for years! At times, it can seem impossible. However, we worked to create a list of ideas that will help you make the impossible possible.

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Building Membership of After School Programs

Did you know that every day, after school, approximately 15 million school aged kids do not have a place to go that has adult supervision? I bet your reaction is similar to ours. Wow, that is a lot of kids! If we flashback fifty years ago, this statistic may not be as frightening because we felt that times were different; a safer different. However, today it is more alarming to have kids roaming the streets after school. They are exposed to violence that has become prevalent at younger and younger ages. They have access to substances that lead to unhealthy habits with just a little persuasion from a “friend". So we can agree that times are different and we don’t want our kids, or other young people in the community for that matter, wandering into a life of dangerous habits. But, what do we do, as program leaders, to encourage young people that we care about to venture away from these risky behaviors?

Involve the kids who don’t have a place to go in our Clubs! I know, this is always the ultimate goal. Involve more kids! Year after year you try to get more kids to come to your after school programs but the same kids show up; which is great. You really should be proud that you have a core group of members that are there any time the doors open. However, we want to help more young people and encourage them to become members of the Club. Again, I bet your reaction in similar to ours. How can we even begin to recruit more members if we haven’t been able to reach them before?

Start by taking the time to reflect. Have you used the same marketing plan for the past two years or even the past ten years? We can all relate to the fact that times change and can do so quickly. What you used to recruit and retain members last school year may need minor changes for this school year. Make note of your strengths and weaknesses. This can give you a starting point of what changes need to be made. Include your staff in the process of brainstorming strategies to capitalize on your strengths and build your weaknesses. Sometimes two, or more, brains really are better than one!