The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) launches a major campaign today (July 31), heralded by a rally and variety show in New York’s Times Square. Actor and musician Nick Cannon, host of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show and a former club member, is taking the stage along with celebrities Ne-Yo (also a former club member), pop singer Estell, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee and others.
The Great Futures Campaign is an expansion and a fund-raising effort that Julie Teer, senior vice-president of resource development, calls unprecedented in the history of the BGCA. The focus is on developing a generation of high school graduates and leaders, according to BGCA It’s also an effort to get the organization’s message out to the public via social media and advertising.
A countdown in Times Square to 3 p.m. — when the school day ends— is meant to highlight the important role of out-of-school time.
“Our kids are in crisis,” Teer said. She pointed out that one in five children live in poverty, a figure supported by the Annie E. Casey 2014 Kids Count report, and that 15 million schoolchildren are unsupervised after school, based on 2013 figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, 43 million lack access to summer learning programs, according to a 2010 report from the Afterschool Alliance.
“We can do something about this,” Teer said.
The campaign seeks to have a large impact in three areas:
- By 2018 the organization wants 70 percent of its high school seniors to be college-bound. Currently, about 10 percent of club members are 16 or older. BGCA will focus on drawing teens into the program, Teer said. In four years, BGCA, which currently serves 3.8 million children, plans to be working toward high school graduation with 1.4 million students.
- A second thrust is to increase civic engagement and community service among kids. Research indicates that kids involved in community service do better in school and in relationships and are more likely to graduate. The goal is to have 1.2 million club teens volunteer at least 6 million total hours, Teer said.
- The campaign has also set goals around physical activity and healthy eating for its kids.
Sponsors will match donated funds up to $1 million, the organization said in a statement.
Among corporate and foundation donors are Taco Bell Foundation for Teens, which is providing a $30 million multi-year grant, the largest gift in the organization’s history. WellPoint Foundation is providing $10 million for programs focusing on health and physical activity. The Wallace Foundation is giving nearly $12 million over several years to fund arts programs, according to the statement.
In support of its goals, the organization will provide training to the adult leadership in communities where clubs exist, Teer said. The campaign seeks to “mobilize the public to advocate in support of kids,” Teer said.
There’s a huge need for affordable after-school and summer learning programs for kids, said Annette Filliat, BGCA’s director of public relations based in Atlanta. Such programs are critical in closing the achievement gap between lower-income kids and their more-affluent peers, she said.
In 2013 the Boys & Girls Clubs had 2 million registered members and the organization served another 1.8 million youth, according to BGCA. It had 4,146 chartered clubs, including 1,500 in schools, 400 affiliated centers on military bases, 300 in public housing and 200 on American Indian reservation lands, according to organization literature.