When the final bell rings to signify the start of summer break, most kids joyfully bound out of the classroom planning their months of freedom and fun. Pool days, family vacations, exploring the outdoors, hours of video game or movie marathons – this is what many kids have to look forward to during the summer months. Unfortunately, there are also children who are filled with dread at the sound of that final bell. For these students, summer means hunger. Without their free or reduced-price lunch and breakfast provided at school, they face hunger and the challenges and repercussions of food insecurity.
According to Feeding America, 20% of food-insecure children live in households that earn too much to qualify for most federal nutrition assistance and rely on charitable organizations to make ends meet.
To combat this issue, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula has become a registered USDA Summer Food Service Program. All 13 Clubs, as well as additional locations sponsored through BGCA, will be serving meals on a first come, first served basis to any child up to 18 years of age. If you or someone you know is facing hunger or need a small amount of assistance to make ends meet, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula is a resource open to the community.
Throughout the school year, BGCVP provides a free meal to all members at qualifying locations through our EatSMART program. EatSMART is also a USDA funded program that provides access to food for the youth who need it most. This year we have decided to expand EatSMART to all community children to combat summer hunger and food scarcity. “Our mission is to serve all young people, especially those who need us most, so we felt it was our responsibility to give access to any hungry child, not just our Club members,” said Hal Smith, President & CEO.
Membership at a Boys & Girls Club is not required to receive meals through the EatSMART Summer Food Service program, but they are available on a first come, first served basis. The chart below shows the locations and times that meals are available. In addition to these “open” sites that serve any child 18 years of age or younger, BGCVP is also hosting feeding sites at additional locations such as the YMCA.
The YMCA locations are not considered “open” sites by USDA regulations. Membership or registration at the YMCA is not required, but other requirements must be met to be eligible for the meals. To be eligible to receive free meals at a residential or non-residential camp (such as YMCA), children must meet the income guidelines for reduced-price meals in the National School Lunch Program. Children who are part of households that receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits or benefits under the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reserves (FDPIR), or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are automatically eligible to receive free meals.
The 2017 Summer Food Service Program will take place June 19-August 25, 2017. Meals will be provided to all children without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service. Meals will be provided on a first come, first served basis.
Please share this service with anyone you may know in need of lunch and snack this summer!
Members at the Crossroads Village Unit have collectively walked 866 miles!
Why and how did they accomplish this incredible feat?
A Walking Club Is Created
The idea for the walking club came from one of the Club staff Ms. Kecia, who wanted to give the kids a change up from their everyday scenery. Ms. Kecia noticed that the children at Crossroads Village had enormous amounts of energy, but did not always have enough space to expend that energy. So, she drew up plans to start a basic club that would walk the kids around the area.
A walking club is a group of people that decide to walk together with a common goal. In this case, the club members wanted to be healthy, but did not want to follow a treadmill gym routine. Members of the walking club at Crossroad Village each set a goal of walking 25 miles, throughout a 3 month period.
Why Is The Walking Club Important?
This group is important because this club was entirely powered by the members of Crossroads Village. Although the idea originated with a staff member, the children took initiative and turned it into a club.
The club proved to be a success in creating a positive outlet for the children to exercise and interact in a healthy manor.
Although it sounds simple, it worked! “It was nothing crazy, just a change” Ms. Kecia said as 34 members joined her club and began embarking on voyages around the Club.
Within a week of forming the club, the members of Crossroads Village fell in love with the group activity. Ms. Kecia mentioned that the most frequently asked question during March and April was “Has the walking club left yet?”
Raqayyah, one of the walkers mentioned “I liked the walking club because it was relaxing and we always had everyone with us”.
Myeil, another member of the walking club, said “I like being a part of the walking club because I get to exercise with my friends”.
As Ms. Kecia mentioned about the program “It went better than expected, the kids are more interested in nature and they are more controllable energy wise”.
Below is a video of two of the walkers on their daily walk.
The club began walking in early March of this year and recently hit its goal by having all walkers complete 25 miles before the end of May.
In addition to exercise, Ms.Kecia hoped the club would lead the members to appreciate nature more. This was definitely an outcome of the walking club as Damauris, one of the walking club members, noted “my favorite part of the walking club is watching the sunset.”
The sunset wasn’t the only thing that caught the walker’s eyes, as one of the highlights of the club was observing a box turtle that was discovered on the Club’s property. Ms.Kecia believes the kids wouldn’t of noticed the turtle if the walking club hadn’t broadened the kids appreciation for nature.
On May 22nd, the Crossroads Village Torch Club organized a certificate ceremony for the members that walked 25 miles in total. To keep in line with making healthy choices during the celebration, the Torch Club made fresh strawberry and banana fruit smoothies as a reward. The children who walked over 25 miles received certificates to commemorate their achievement. They were also praised for collectively walking 866 miles, which exceeded the goal.
Although a walking club may sound boring and simple to some, it was the simplicity that made this program effective. Club members didn’t feel like walking was a hard task, rather it was relaxing and fun. The walking club was an instant hit with the kids and staff at Crossroads Village!
Thank you to Ms. Kecia for dedicating your time to guiding the children of Crossroads Village to be healthy individuals. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula is focused on empowering young individuals to be active in the community and active physically. Living a healthy lifestyle is the first step to creating a healthy community.
Comment below and let us know what you think about the Crossroads Village walking club.
When classrooms started phasing out homework, Boys & Girls Club staff had to get creative about “Power Hour.”
“Power Hour is our homework help program we run every day after school, and we often recruit volunteer tutors, or the older kids help the younger kids” said Area Director Eric Battle.
The timing varies at each Club, but typically “Power Hour” begins after kids have time to settle in and run around for 30 minutes after school. Although it doesn’t always last the full hour, members are required to use this time for academics.
“If a member says he or she doesn’t have homework, then typically we find him or her a book to read,” said Battle. “But when we realized that teachers were phasing out homework and many kids didn’t have something to work on, we knew we needed to get creative.”
Youth Development Professional Deborah Gregory at the York Club also works during the day as a Para-educator in the York County Public School system.
“I saw a lot of kids struggling with reading during the day, and not all of our Club members have family at home that can or want to take the time to read with them, so I figured we would put our efforts there,” said Gregory.
They started with second graders and called the program, “Rocking in our Reading Shoes.” Participants pick out a book, read the book either by themselves or with a helper, and then complete a reading “pennant.” The pennant worksheet includes the title, author, description, their personal rating, and a reason (via drawings) for the rating.
Teachers have seen significant grade increases, including some by more than a letter.
And most importantly, the kids are enjoying the program. They even decorated one of the doors in the Club in honor of “Rocking in our Reading Shoes.”(displayed below)
“I like reading because it’s fun, but also because I get to learn new things,” said Jaliyah, one of the second graders in the program.
To engage other grade levels, Ms. Gregory began pairing up third grade students with first grade students who are having trouble reading.
“I enjoy helping whenever Ms. Gregory asks me,” explained Jordan, a third grade reading tutor. “I get to read with my friends and help some of the other Club members.”
The effort has been so successful that teachers requested Gregory begin working with Club members on spelling. Now, Club members are assigned spelling lists each week depending on their grade and spelling level, and practice Monday through Wednesday.
“Members take a pre-test at the Club on Thursdays so they are ready for their weekly spelling tests on Fridays,” said Gregory.
Rocking in my Reading Shoes has been a successful program in changing the mindsets of young individuals towards valuing education and enjoying reading. Boys & Girls Clubs thanks all of the people that volunteer their time to make this program possible.
Boys & Girls Clubs prioritize academic success as one of the three main priority areas, in addition to healthy lifestyles and character & citizenship. This reading program fills a gap in the community and ensures Club members have every opportunity to succeed.
On the evening of Thursday, March 23 hundreds of guests including donors, community partners, volunteers, board members, staff and Club members gathered to celebrate our outstanding youth at the 29th Annual Steak 'N Burger Dinner. The evening included talent acts by Club members, recognition of our top volunteers, awards for community partners, and speeches by our four Youth of the Year Finalists. The evening concluded with Scott Russell of Ferguson Enterprises announcing Amanda Minick as the 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula Youth of the Year!
Amanda won over the crowd and earned a standing ovation after sharing her incredible story of rising above adversity. From a young age, Amanda has overcome sexual assault, personal tragedies, and family conflicts. Through all of this, there has been one safe constant: her local Boys & Girls Club and the Unit Director who she loves like a father.
"My Boys & Girls Club has taught me to keep my chin up and to carry my head high. My Club has helped me see my future and showed me how to help others," Amanda said about the impact of the Club.
Far less significant experiences have hindered an individual's success, but Amanda has overcome her tragedies and setbacks with a grace that is beyond her 17 years. Her Unit Director, Gary Rippel, said "Amanda doesn't dwell on the past, but focuses on the future and the success that awaits her. Amanda is a role model, a leader, and a compassionate young lady who puts others first and is focused on helping others overcome their struggles in life."
As Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula's Youth of the Year, Amanda will serve as an ambassador for the organization. The winner is also presented a scholarship and is entered into the State Youth of the Year competition for a chance to advance to Regional and National competition and represent Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Learn more about Amanda in her profile on an earlier blog post.
This post is part of a series featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. Learn more about the Youth of the Year Process HERE. Meet She'ana HERE, Amanda HERE, and Amere HERE.
DeSean Williams is a self-assured leader. Overcoming low self-esteem from bullying, he has already proven success and was named 2016 Youth of the Year.
As a young boy without a father, DeSean struggled to teach himself how to be a man. He has said “because I lacked inner confidence and strength, I struggled with who I really was and who ‘the streets’ wanted me to be. I contemplated joining a gang, which at the time I thought would provide that acceptance I desired.” Without a positive male role model, this inner turmoil was fueled by bullying and led DeSean to thoughts of suicide.
Luckily, DeSean found himself at the Crossroads Village Unit of Boys & Girls Clubs and found the support he so desperately needed. Staff member Cameron Bertrand had such a positive impact on DeSean that when he was assigned as Area Director of two new locations, DeSean switched Clubs to stay in daily contact with him.
DeSean has found his passion as the coach of the Pinedale Manor Mustangs cheerleading team. Other Club activities he participates in include Passport to Manhood and Keystone Club. He is also extremely proud to be a leader and role model as a Junior Staff member.
“Now, I can legitimately say, ‘I’m happy.’ I am my own person, and while I might not fit into other people’s boxes, my Club taught me to have confidence in myself and my importance,” said DeSean.
At school DeSean is a member of the Hurricane Cheerleading team, school chorus, and FBLA. His favorite subjects are Economics and Personal Finance. He is completing his senior year and currently has a 3.1 GPA.
DeSean plans to attend Norfolk State University and complete a degree in business. He hopes to return to BGCA after college to serve as a Unit Director and be the role model for youth that Mr. Cameron has been to him. His long-term career goal is to eventually serve as President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula.
Do you think DeSean will win a second year in a row to be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
You can meet the other candidates HERE.
This post is part of a series on our Youth of the Year Finalists. Learn more about our Youth of the Year process in our earlier post here, and meet our other Finalists Amere and Amanda.
Sheana Stroud is a humanitarian. In her home life, school life, and Club life, Sheana does her best to ensure the needs of others are met.
Sheana joined Boys & Girls Clubs 10 years ago at our Mathews Unit. She remembers walking in the first day and being surrounded with screams of excitement and joy and knowing then that she would love it.
Knowing how involved with the Club Sheana is, it is hard to believe she has not always been outgoing. She says she was very shy as a kid and didn’t like meeting new people. "The Club helped me socialize and be more comfortable speaking with people, which helped a lot when starting high school and tried out for the cheerleading team," said Sheana. Now in her senior year, Sheana is honored to be team captain!
In the future, Sheana hopes to work for Child Protection Services. She realized she has a love for working with children, and Boys & Girls Clubs has helped her discover her passion. “I started thinking about the kids who aren’t able to have the opportunity I had when I was a kid… I want to show those kids that good things do happen for good people. I want to be the person to help them with their financial issues or their household problems,” said Sheana.
As a Junior Staff member, Sheana already has opportunity to act as a mentor. She enjoys talking with the younger members and explaining the difference between good and bad behavior and how members can improve behavior.
Beyond the Club, Sheana partakes in numerous community service projects. She cleans local parks and beaches, participates in school service opportunities, and Adopt-a-Family. She particularly enjoys being able to help a family in need during the holidays.
It is clear that Sheana cares deeply about others and her community.
Do you think she will be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
This profile is part of a series featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. To learn more about our Youth of the Year Program and how we select a winner, you can visit our previous blog post.
Amanda is a fighter. Literally, as a certified Tae Kwon Do instructor, and figuratively, overcoming horrific childhood experiences.
From the early age of six-years-old, Amanda has overcome sexual assault, personal tragedies, and family conflicts. Through all of this, there has been one safe constant: her local Boys & Girls Club and the Unit Director who she loves like a father. “My Boys & Girls Club has taught me to keep my chin up and to carry my head high. My Club has helped me see my future and showed me how to help others,” Amanda said about the impact of the Club.
Far less significant experiences have hindered an individual’s success, but Amanda has overcome her tragedies and setbacks with a grace that his beyond her 17 years. Her Unit Director, Gary Rippel, said “Amanda doesn’t dwell on the past, but focuses on the future and the success that awaits her. Amanda is a role model, a leader, and a compassionate young lady who puts others first and is focused on helping others overcome their struggles in life.”
At the Club, Amanda enjoys taking field trips, especially college tours, and the annual Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation summer camp. She assists with holiday parties and helps organize the Adopt-a-Highway program. Younger members enjoy attending Tae Kwon Do classes led by Amanda, a school blackbelt and certified instructor.
Amanda is currently a Junior with an impressive 3.2 GPA. At school she enjoys participating in choir, art, and DECA, a marketing organization. After graduation, Amanda hopes to earn a degree in Criminal Justice and to pursue a career as a profiler for the FBI.
“Amanda is one of the most deserving people I know, and it would be an honor to have her represent the organization as the 2017 Youth of the Year.” – Gary Rippell, Unit Director
Actual (not really) footage of Amanda being amazing:
So, do you think Amanda will be the 2017 Youth of the Year?
Stay tuned for more Youth of the Year Finalist spotlights. You can meet Amere here.
This profile is the first in a series of four featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. To learn more about our Youth of the Year Program and how we select a winner, you can visit last week's blog post here.
Amere Langley is a renaissance man. He is successful in many areas of his life including sports, academics, and music.
Amere could probably do this on the first try.
At 16-years-old, Amere is the youngest of our Youth of the Year Finalists, but he has the presence of someone older. In the past few years he has faced great loss with the passing of his grandfather and great-uncle. Despite only seeing his grandfather four or five times a year, he had an incredible impact on Amere. After his passing in 2014, Amere struggled with guilt, wishing he had spent more time with his role model. One year later in 2015, his great-uncle passed away leaving Amere heartbroken. It was during this time that Amere really understood the saying "you don't know what you have 'til it's gone."
Amere feels extremely lucky to still have his father in his life, but also feels that he has family at his Boys & Girls Clubs. He credits Program Director, Marc Lattimore, and former Unit Director, Mike Mullins, with putting him on the path to success.
It is clear that Amere found that path and has stuck to it. Amere is a sophomore and is already deeply involved in many extracurricular activities. He is a member of the Math Honor Society, runs on the track team, is Vice-President of the French Club, is in the honors choir vocal ensemble, and has an impressive 3.6 GPA while taking 2 AP and 3 Honors classes.
Amere also regularly participates in Boys & Girls Club activities at the Peninsula Unit, where he has attended since 2012. Roller skating, musical jump rope, and arts & crafts are some of his favorites, but going on field trips is the highlight of his experiences because he enjoys representing his Club while out in the community. He also represents himself well within the Club. As a graduate of the 1st annual YES Academy and 2nd annual Ready 2 Work program, Amere has learned career skills that make him a valuable Junior Staff member. He often assists in running programs for younger members and helps to serve EatSMART meals. Unit Director, Josh Goffigan, said "he is a leader and a role model for the younger kids and even kids that are his age."
In the future, Amere hopes to own a successful business. He is not yet positive about what he wants to study, but higher education is definitely in his future. He is interested in pursuing a PhD, however he has not decided on a subject. He’s leaning towards mathematics or business and said he would love to attend Harvard’s business school.
Do you think Amere will be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
You can meet our other Youth of the Year Finalists by following our blog. New biographies will be released over the following weeks.
Every year, one teen is selected from each of our Clubs as a Club Youth of the Year. To be selected is an honor, as it means the member has demonstrated exemplary behavior, strong morals, and the values of the Boys & Girls Clubs mission. Each of these members then have the opportunity to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula's Youth of the Year. That title is a mouthful, but it comes with incredible opportunity and reward. Our Youth of the Year is presented a scholarship and is entered into the State Youth of the Year competition for a chance to advance to Regional and National competition and a chance to represent Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Many of our Youth of the Year candidates take part in more than one of our life-changing programs. From Ready to Work to Triple Play, from Keystone Club to Cheerleading, these members take advantage of what our Clubs have to offer. Not only do they receive many benefits from their Clubs, they also give back. For these members, the Club is not just a place to hang out after school; the Club is a home away from home and the other members, volunteers, and staff are family.
We know that each of these members has a bright future to look forward to with many successes. They have the passion and the responsibility to achieve their goals. We cannot wait to see what their next steps are in life and look forward to their continued involvement in our mission as members and future alumni. Please help us congratulate these outstanding youth on this accomplishment!
Meet the Youth of the Year Finalists:
We also want to give a big congratulations to the other Candidates:
And not pictured, Kania Hammie-King from Lassiter Courts.
Our Youth of the Year Winner will be announced at our 29th Annual Steak 'N Burger Dinner. Each of the finalists will speak to the audience about their experience with Boys & Girls Clubs before the announcement is made. If you are interested in supporting our youth by attending the event, you can purchase tickets on the event page.
For the next few weeks leading up to Steak 'N Burger, we will feature our Finalists in a special blog series. Stay tuned to learn more about these incredible young men and women!
We know kids LOVE candy, but holidays and celebrations often lead to an overload of sugar and unhealthy decisions. At our Clubs we strive to teach our members to live healthy lifestyles - to stay active, develop a positive mental attitude, and choose nutritious foods. The healthy lifestyle doesn't mean missing out on any fun though. As Valentine's Day approaches, consider one of these healthy alternatives for you child's classroom valentines.
If you have a few hours to spare, these cute bracelets can be made easily without breaking the bank. Visit your local craft store and pick out embroidery floss in your child's favorite colors. Simply braid 3 strands together and knot the loose ends. We especially love these cute tags that read "Our class would KNOT be the same without you!"
If you just can't seem to part with a sweet snack as a valentine, consider trading in the candy for fresh fruit. Paired with these tags, they make the perfect gift.
How adorable are these "Hogs & Kisses" valentines?? With a cup of apple or berry sauce, a few spare craft supplies, and a glue gun, the whole class will be in hog heaven!
The perfect valentine for young bookworms - these are fun AND functional. The best part is that they are a blank canvas! Many free designs can be found online to simply print and cut out. If you are feeling creative, you can design your own or have your child color unique bookmarks for each classmate. There is no limit to the possibilities for this valentine.
Cupid will hit his mark with these sweet and simple gifts. Search the bargain section of your local Target, Walmart, or dollar store for packs of Valentine's pencils. Punch or cut out paper hearts, and paper feathers to attach to each end.
It can't get simpler than this. If you don't have the time or energy for a full on DIY project, stickers could be your perfect valentine. Purchase several packs of stickers - bonus points if they are Valentine's themed - and divide them into separate sheets. Print out labels that read "Valentine, I am STUCK on you" and staple to the sticker sheet. Easy Peasy!
This option is a bit more labor intensive, but will be worth the effort! You will need a silicone mold - you can find these in the baking section of most stores, or sometimes where you would find ice trays. Next, take all the broken pieces of crayons in your house - we know you have a full bin of broken crayons if you have a child - and put the pieces into the mold. A few minutes in the oven will result in a rainbow marbled crayon in the shape of a heart. Bonus points if you package these up with a small coloring page!
What do you think of these healthier alternatives to Valentine's Day candy? Post your pictures and comments if you try one out this year and let us know how it goes!
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