As we all know, the teenage years are filled with new challenges, emotions and pressures. These years also provide adolescents with tremendous learning opportunities – the choices they make now can have a life-long impact. Today’s teens also face more complex issues than previous generations. Drugs, alcohol, gangs and pregnancy are just some of the issues confronting them. Ensuring that teens have good judgment skills is more critical than ever.
The number of teenagers dropping out of high school is also a challenge. Nationwide, 1 out of 3 teens will drop out. African American and Hispanic youth will be hit even harder, with 1 of every 2 failing to graduate. These statistics are troubling and unacceptable. They’re further exacerbated by ongoing economic woes, nationally and world-wide, that have resulted in fewer job and career opportunities for teens.
During the National Keystone Conference, I enjoyed getting to know teens who serve as leaders in their Clubs.
This all underscores the role we play at Boys & Girls Clubs to ensure teens have a safe place to productively use their time – and a safe mental space, too. At the Club, they can be confident they’ll encounter positive, productive influences, as well as leadership and service opportunities.
Our Keystone Clubs engage teens in a way that produces significantly more favorable outcomes than the norm. This success was on full display at the recent National Keystone Club Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Some 2,000 Club teenagers joined together for fun, exciting and enlightening experiences. It was my first national Keystone Conference. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Teens gained valuable information about critical issues in their lives. They learned how to deal with everyday challenges. Teen focus groups provided essential insights on recruitment and technology. Speakers shared inspirational stories of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve success. In the process, our young people learned that good things come from education, perseverance, hard work and focus.
Teen reporter DeQuan interviews me at my first National Keystone Conference as BGCA's new president and CEO!
Frequently, we see statistics that Club members’ high school graduation rates are often better than those of their peers. Surveys also show that Club teens, especially those in Keystone, do better in life and overcome the many challenges mentioned earlier. It’s no wonder, given the support system and caring Club professionals in their lives.
Our vision for Boys & Girls Clubs is simple – every youth who enters our doors graduates from high school with a plan for the future. We are focused on three outcome areas: academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. The Formula for Impact is the key that will improve results, and transform and save more lives.
At the core of the Formula is the Club Experience. There’s no substitute for ensuring that our young people have fun, have a professional adult in their lives to guide and counsel them, and receive recognition for their achievements. When you see it in action – like those 2,000 teens in Fort Worth – it all comes together.