Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has been working for more than a century to help the nation’s youth reach their full potential. The Club experience focuses heavily on education and academic success. The organization also oversees a number of initiatives that inspire creativity, build confidence, and encourage members to live healthy and active lives.
Currently, BGCA conducts a wide range of arts-based programming that explores numerous disciplines. At Boys and Girls Clubs across the country, members of all ages also engage in a variety of sports and recreation programs.
Keep reading for a closer look at how BGCA is promoting physical fitness and providing an outlet for self-expression.
Using the Arts to Give Kids a Voice
With the support of its national partners, BGCA inspires Club youth to pursue interests ranging from photography to hip-hop. The group’s top three programs in the area of art education are:
ImageMakers and the National Photography Program
Supported by Sony Electronics, ImageMakers helps young people develop the skills needed to take impactful photos and express themselves through visual storytelling. The initiative is part of BGCA’s National Photography Program, which has been teaching youth about the art and science of photography for more than 50 years.
A major component of ImageMakers is the National Photography Contest. Open to Club members ages 6 to 18, the contest invites participants to capture photos in several categories, including culture and tradition, portraits, and fashion.
Those who win competitions at the local and regional levels go on to compete nationally for a chance to win Sony camera equipment and have their photos exhibited online. Each year, the winners’ artwork can be viewed at www.bgca.org/imagemakers.
Rooted in the music of hip-hop culture, Lyricism 101 gives Club teens the opportunity to express their ideas in lyrical form. With support from Sprite and Coca-Cola, BGCA first launched Lyricism 101 in 2016. Since then, it has spread to Club locations nationwide.
Although activities vary from Club to Club, the main components of the program include workshops on the history of hip-hop and the art of freestyling. Lyricism 101 also includes competitions that help teens build self-confidence while showcasing their lyrical talents.
Another way BGCA helps youth build self-confidence is through DramaMatters Afterschool. In addition to teaching Club members ages 6 to 18 about acting, the weekly drama education program features hands-on lessons. Topics include costumes, set design, and directing.
Each session is designed to be adaptable for all ages and ability levels. DramaMatters Afterschool is made possible with support from TNT.
Creating Healthier Youth through Sports and Recreation
In addition to overseeing a comprehensive health and wellness program called Triple Play, BGCA promotes positive health outcomes by engaging Club youth in various sports and recreation programs. The organization’s top programs in this area include:
Over the past two decades, Major League Baseball (MLB) has partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs on various initiatives impacting the nation’s youth. One of the most recent of these initiatives is PLAY BALL. The program teaches kids of all ages the fundamentals of baseball and softball.
PLAY BALL also highlights the many ways that these sports can be played. Along with traditional games, the program engages participants in other fun activities. These include catch, stickball, WIFFLE ball, and skills competitions. Club members who participate in PLAY BALL also have the opportunity to meet professional baseball players and take part in special MLB events.
RBI and Jr. RBI
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is another MLB-sponsored initiative. It focuses specifically on encouraging youth in underserved communities to participate in baseball and softball.
Boys and Girls Clubs across the country oversee RBI leagues comprising boys’ baseball and girls’ fast-pitch softball teams. In addition to playing competitively in league games, members of RBI teams have the opportunity to take part in baseball clinics, regional tournaments, and the national RBI World Series.
Alongside the main RBI program for boys and girls ages 13 to 18, BGCA offers Jr. RBI for youth 12 and under. With three divisions of play, the program introduces age-appropriate rules while teaching baseball and softball fundamentals. All three divisions of Jr. RBI also emphasize safety. This ensures that young players have fun without injuring their developing bodies.
Club youth interested in sports other than baseball can take part in BGCA’s ALL STARS program, which focuses on basketball, soccer, and flag football. Each year, ALL STARS provides tens of thousands of youth ages 6 to 18 with the opportunity to enjoy physical activity and social interaction. In 2017 alone, the program reached over 170,000 Club members.
ALL STARS is made possible with support from Buffalo Wild Wings and its Team Up for Kids initiative. The national restaurant chain has supported the program for several years. It has committed to donating more than $10 million by 2020 to expand and improve sports programming at Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.
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