Future prep at the Boys & Girls Club
The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County offers after-school programs that enrich the mind and body, along with academic support, mentoring, and internship opportunities to prepare student members for college and careers.
Photographs by Linda Friend
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If you haven’t seen the inside of the recently renovated Taft Street Boys & Girls Club in Madison, then you can be forgiven for not knowing just how much the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County offers area schoolchildren.
The Boys & Girls Club is so much more than just a safe place for kids to gather after school until their parents get home from work. It’s also a spot where kids can go to work on their homework and additional learning opportunities; work toward physical fitness goals; explore music, dance, and the arts; get a hot and healthy meal; and even pursue professional opportunities through internship programs and college-prep programs.
“In recent years, the Boys & Girls Club movement has focused additional efforts on helping children and teens achieve in our three priority outcome areas of academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles,” says A.J. Kriha, senior director of programming for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
“We also undertake specialized initiatives that cut across more than one program area and/or address the unique needs of special populations,” Kriha notes. “This includes community programming that provide access to fitness and technology to address the lack of access in the areas we serve.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Preparing for college
Preparing students for life after high school is a critical aspect of what the Boys & Girls Club does for its student members, especially as they get into middle and high school. Increasingly, that means getting them ready for college.
The Boys & Girls Club utilizes the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program, a national college readiness system consisting of two interrelated components designed to increase academic achievement, college preparation, and postsecondary educational access and degree attainment for underrepresented students in the academic middle:
- An elective class aimed at preparing a select group of students for entrance and enrollment in post-secondary education. AVID aims to serve students in the academic middle (2.0–3.5 grade-point average) who may be first generation, low-income, historically underrepresented in post-secondary education, and/or have special circumstances.
- Best-practice instructional and student strategies implemented school-wide and designed to help all students access high-quality curriculum and become independent learners on a pathway to college, career, and community success.
“These programs are have changed the future for our members,” Langston Evans, assistant vice president of education/TOPS notes. “Ninety-nine percent of our members who complete the program graduate from high school. Over 85% of our high school graduates enter college in the semester following high school graduation.
“Our third-party evaluation from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab shows that more AVID/TOPS students go on to college than similar students who have not been in the program. Of the 338 AVID/TOPS high school graduates since 2010, four have graduated from college and 241 are currently enrolled in college.”
Evans says mentoring is a key component in the BGCDC’s goal to help students develop confidence in themselves and develop networking skills. TOPS mentors are caring professionals from the community who choose to partner with a motivated high school student and serve as their guide and consultant as the high school student navigates the journey from high school to college to career.