Boys & Girls Clubs of the Seminole Tribe of Florida
A New Club Takes Off
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Big Cypress Unit, has only been open for a year, but already serves 116 youth. The unit is located at the Ahfachkee School, a tribally owned and operated school for grades kindergarten through 12. "Ahfachkee" means "happy" in the tribe's Mikasuki language.
Laying the Groundwork
The first unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Seminole Tribe of Florida opened on the Hollywood Seminole Reservation in 2004. The Boys & Girls Clubs model was not initially familiar to many members of the tribe. During the first week of opening, only a handful of youth used the Club.
Familiarizing tribal members and leaders with the Club’s mission and activities helped the Hollywood unit become a trusted entity. Parents and guardians of the Club members appreciate that the Club gives their youth a safe place to go after school. Robert Cloud North, Sr., Director of Development and Operations, says the Club receives "unified support" from "many elements of our community. There seems to be a strong community spirit that lives within our Clubs which is able to neutralize negativity. Several elements of our community are able to agree upon the idea of investing in our youth through the efforts of the Club."
The Seminole Tribal Council has been extremely supportive of growing Clubs. This support has allowed the Hollywood unit to increase the number of youth served, implement more programming, and build another Club. Two Tribal Council members serve on the Club's Board of Directors. Hollywood Tribal Council Member Max Osceola, stated, "I wish we had these Clubs established ten or fifteen years ago…our reservation communities have gone through dramatic changes in recent years, and we need to direct these Clubs as the new center of our Youth's universe."
Programming Meets Community Needs
In 2007 the Seminole Tribal Council and the Housing Department spearheaded construction of a modular unit for the Hollywood Reservation teens (ages 12 to 18). The Youth Club and Teen Center employ five full-time staff members. Daily attendance averages 35-50 youth.
The Club hosts at least two Native cultural activities or classes weekly. This includes Native language instruction, sewing, beadwork, and traditional cooking. To provide a more intensive experience, several Native Culture camps take place during the summer in a conference setting or in remote wilderness locations. The tribe's Clubs are finishing their third T.R.A.I.L. juvenile diabetes prevention grant, which encourages youth to take increased responsibility for a healthier lifestyle.
A New Model Builds on the Old
In 2007 Big Cypress Council Representative David Cypress invited the tribe’s Boys & Girls Club to explore extending service to one of the tribe's rural communities. The Big Cypress Reservation is about 65 miles from Hollywood.
Again, community acceptance was critical. The Boys & Girls Club was more familiar to tribal members since it had been operating in Hollywood. Councilman Cypress' office and staff, in particular, Ms. Dale Grasshopper, were critical to the planning and development of the new Club. Newly hired Ahfachkee School Principal Walter Swan, a member of the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota, has also embraced the program's vision.
North stated, "All that was missing was the ‘Doud’ Factor." He refers to Thomas Doud who has worked as a Club Administrator with the tribe since 2005, "…someone who knew the mechanics of the tribe and the BGC." Mr. Doud was appointed the Unit Manager of the Big Cypress Boys & Girls Club at the Ahfachkee School.
An Energized Power Hour
Power Hour, BGCA’s homework help and tutoring program, is scheduled as the first hour of the Club day. About 40-50 youth participate in the Power Hour daily.
School staff, who also serve as Power Hour tutors, help integrate the Club and the Power Hour seamlessly into the school schedule. Teachers remind students of the homework program during their classes. "We see the benefits of Power Hour every day. It helps us extend our academic day and gives us an opportunity to present material in a different format," says Principal Swan.
The Power Store, which opened in February 2010, has energized the program even more and engaged the students’ competitive spirit. Students complete their homework and earn Power Dollars. Eligible students receive their Power Check each Friday and then the store, also in the cafeteria, opens. Checks can buy items like pens and pencils or be banked to save for the larger ticket items, such as iPods and class pizza parties. North says, "Students are excited about the Power Hour and Power Store, which encourages them to be more attentive during their daily classes…this is big!"
For more information, contact Robert Cloud North, Sr., Director of Development & Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Phone: (954) 966-6300, ext. 10851
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