In addition to serving youth in major cities nationwide, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BBCA) maintains over 1,000 Clubs in rural areas. These include many communities on Native lands, which are home to American Indian, Alaska Native, American Samoan, and Hawaiian tribal youth. Along with the challenges that affect young people of all cultural backgrounds, those in Native communities often have unique needs that aren’t being addressed by local programs.
As part of a commitment to promote and expand youth development initiatives among Native kids and teens, BGCA established its Native Services arm in partnership with tribal leaders and other key stakeholders on tribal lands. Keep reading to learn more about BGCA Native Services and what it’s doing to improve the lives of Native youth.
Challenges Facing Native Communities
Across the United States, there are many self-governing Native American communities that are home to over 570 federally recognized tribes. Each of these groups has its own rich culture, heritage, language, and traditions. Unfortunately, many Native communities also face unique challenges that make it difficult for tribe members, including Native youth, to reach their full potential.
Although many young tribe members thrive and succeed in life, Native youth are among the most vulnerable populations in the country. In addition to experiencing high rates of poverty, a disproportionate number of Native youth face challenges related to physical and nutritional health, mental wellness, substance abuse, and education. A lack of local resources and the isolation of some Native communities can make these challenges even more difficult to overcome.
What BGCA Native Services Is Doing to Help
The mission of BGCA Native Services is to help Native youth reach their full potential while celebrating the particular strengths and cultural traditions of the country’s tribal communities. Since launching Native Services in 1992, BGCA has expanded its offerings to become the largest youth-serving organization on Native land. Today, more than 86,000 youth from over 100 tribes benefit from programming offered through nearly 200 Native Clubs nationwide.
Over the years, BGCA has built sustainable partnerships with tribal leaders and invested resources toward improving the capacity of professional staff and other leaders of Native Clubs. As with Club programs outside of Native communities, those implemented by BGCA Native Services focus on physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development. BGCA has also worked closely with local tribes and community leaders to develop programming specific to the needs and cultures of Native youth.
Native Services Club Programs
Native Services Club programs cover each of BGCA’s five core program areas: Character and Leadership Development; Health and Life Skills; Education and Career Development; the Arts; and Sports, Fitness and Recreation. Native Club youth take part in national BGCA programs such as All Stars, DIY STEM, My.Future, and Smart Moves.
Through the work of Native Services leaders, the curriculum of each of these programs has been adapted to be more reflective of Native American culture. BGCA also encourages all local Native Club leaders to create supplemental materials and activities to further reflect their own community’s unique culture and traditions. Native Services even created its Cultural Program Toolbox to make it easier for Clubs to build and implement culturally relevant services.
Along with adapting existing BGCA programming, Native Services has developed programs that are only implemented in Native Clubs. They include On the T.R.A.I.L (Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life) to Diabetes Prevention. This program aims to reduce the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among Native communities through a combination of physical, nutritional, and educational activities.
Keeping the Momentum Going
More than 25 years after launching Native Services, BGCA continues to build momentum as the top youth agency on Native lands. As part of its Great Futures 2025 Strategy, which was developed in 2017, the organization has established four key priorities for its activities with Native youth.
Going forward, Boys and Girls Clubs will work to increase the quality of Native Club programs and leadership while advocating for Native youth development. The group will also focus on growing the number of Native Club members as it continues to expand and improve programming.
BGCA Native Services has received significant support in these efforts from corporate and nonprofit partners. This includes the Walmart Foundation, which donated $500,000 to help BGCA provide Native kids and teens with education on healthy lifestyles and nutrition. The funding is supporting education and Club improvements at over two dozen Clubs on Native lands.
BGCA also relies on the support of individual donors to continue its Native Services programming. Supporters can make a tax-deductible donation to the Native American Sustainability Fund to ensure that Native Clubs continue to thrive. Each dollar donated to the fund is used to increase Club sustainability, foster organizational growth, and provide training resources and technical support for Native Club leaders.
More information about BGCA Native Services and ways you can help is available at www.naclubs.org.
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