Big Changes in a Small Town
The Boys & Girls Club of the White Earth Reservation has made a dynamic impact on youth and families in Naytahwaush, MN. Although Naytahwaush is a small village, community leaders worked diligently to recruit the 100 young people needed for the Club to become active. Since the opening of the Naytahwaush Unit in 2002, the Club has doubled in size and serves up to 65 youth each day. Located in a community center, the Naytahwaush Unit is open to children of all ages.
Values for Life
Through key initiatives of leadership and community service, Club staff members work to create an environment in which youth can learn self-sufficiency and responsibility. Popular Club programs are the Goals for Growth character and leadership development program and the T.R.A.I.L. (Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life) diabetes prevention program, which is the only one of its kind on the reservation. Youth enjoy these programs because of the variety of activities they feature. Whether making a healthy snack, learning a new game, or creating an original work of art, Club members are actively engaged and never get bored.
At the Club, youth come to understand the importance of social responsibility through regular involvement in service projects and work with community elders. Teenagers are taught to serve as positive role models for younger members, promoting an atmosphere of teamwork and accountability. Club staff members routinely communicate program goals and objectives to parents and caregivers. The establishment of strong relationships with guardians helps build their confidence in the Club and motivates them to keep their children coming back.
The Place to Be
The Club has a strong presence in the community and is heavily involved with the Naytahwaush Community Charter School. Club staff members provide support to teachers before and after school hours and facilitate character and leadership development programming during teacher break times. Club staff members also assist with facilitating the 21st Century Afterschool Program. A grant from this organization provided most of the Club’s start-up funding. Because of the close relationship that Club staff members have with community leaders, the Club has become the “go-to” place for neighborhood events. The Club has hosted community clean-ups, softball tournaments, “family first” week, and more. Additionally, tribal police officers facilitate the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program in conjunction with the Street SMART gang-prevention program at the Club.
The White Earth Reservation is extremely supportive of the Club and tribal leaders are passionate about working with young people in their community. Many community leaders serve on the Club’s board of directors and encourage staff members to incorporate cultural elements into daily Club activities. Members practice Ojibwa traditions during program time and at special events. For example, they participate in annual pow-wows, sugar-bushing, and practice traditional uses of tobacco. Club staff members encourage local church groups and private donors to volunteer during these events. The Reservation Tribal Council has established a memorandum of agreement to protect and benefit its employees who serve at the Club. Last summer the Club secured a memorandum of agreement with the tribe, solidifying the partnership between the Club and the community.
Heart of the Community
Ashley Broden, Unit Lead for the Naytahwaush site, says that Club members motivate her to come to work each day. She gets the most energy from her regular members, affectionately known as “The Brat Pack,” who keep her on her toes and inspire new program ideas. Miss Broden, who is in her second year on staff, is proud that the Club has become a core value to the community. “If a parent or guardian is ever looking for a member, 'The Club' is the first place they seek out. We provide an extended family to this community and that is what I think 'The Club' means to Naytahwaush,” she explains.
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