This event and similar ones the past few years have given all of us pause. Personally, I feel deep sorrow for those families and individuals who have suffered losses, as well as the pain felt in every community.
Being at the Milwaukee Club underscored what a Clubhouse stands for in a community. It is much more than a building. Clubs represent safety and opportunity. It’s where relationships get built and the very nature of our work offers solutions to challenges that communities around the country face. And we have an opportunity to bring these solutions to the forefront.
Club activities and programs help encourage positive social behavior, enhance academic success and offer hope. Around the country, Clubs are keeping kids safe while they build partnerships with law enforcement. There are countless examples, but one that comes to mind is from Tampa, Florida. When the Freddie Solomon Boys & Girls Club opened a couple years back, within eight months, juvenile arrests in the West Tampa neighborhood dropped 36 percent.
But our problems cannot be solved until we close the gap between kids who are most in need and out-of-school time programs like Boys & Girls Clubs. In total, 43 million kids in America have nowhere to go in the summer. That’s right – 43 million, or 75 percent of our young people, unsupervised and potentially at risk.
Clearly, we all need to come together and focus on solutions that work. One solution is Boys & Girls Clubs. In urban and rural areas, public housing communities and public schools, U.S. military installations worldwide and on Native lands here in the U.S., Clubs teach kids right from wrong. They show young people what a positive interaction and a good relationship look like, prepare them for college and careers, and teach them what it means to be an engaged, productive citizen.
Clubs are conveners, collaborators and community organizers. We bring law enforcement and youth together to help them understand and respect one another. But we can’t do it alone. Real change is driven by the speed of trust. And trust is driven by the speed of relationship. We can start by all of us committing to make sure more kids have more opportunities to experience a high quality out-of-school-time program.