Breaking the Cycle in Clermont County




Stephanie Wyler, board member of BGCGC and Britton Martin, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Clermont County

Photo by Daniel Smyth

 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati (BGCGC) has been saving and transforming the lives of at-risk youth through providing free, out-of-school and summer youth development programs that supports our youth to become productive adults by breaking the cycle of poverty and contributing to our community. The mission of BGCGC is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.  

BGCGC recently acquired the Boys & Girls Clubs of Clermont County, expanding the organization’s mission to transform the lives of at-risk youth in Clermont County. The deal included a facility in New Richmond, plus two school-based programs at Glen Este Middle School and Amelia Middle School that serve more than a 100 youth with ambitions to grow enrollment. 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Clermont County had been struggling financially when its board members reached out to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati about an acquisition last year. “We just didn’t have the financial resources and corporate sponsorship to meet the demand,” says Stephanie Wyler, board member of BGCGC and previous juvenile court judge for more than 20 years in Clermont County. 

BGCGC agreed to acquire the Clermont Clubs once its debt was paid. “We were able to pay off the debt,” Wyler says. “A lot of the money came from the board members because they believe in this program.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Clermont County has had a major influence over the last 20 years in reducing juvenile crime in an area that was mostly rural until the last decade as suburban Cincinnati expands eastward. The first Club was started in New Richmond when the local crime rate was high. 

Wyler recalled a time when juvenile probation officers had youth from nearly every household on Ginn Road in New Richmond. About five years after the Club opened, the juvenile probation officer’s caseload dropped nearly 50 percent and none of the kids on Ginn Road were on probation. “They were all at the Boys & Girls Club,” Wyler says.

The school’s delinquency rate was high in New Richmond, but now 98 percent of the youth in the Boys & Girls Clubs’ programs graduate from high school, she says. “The Club gives the kids a safe place to go after school and allows them an opportunity to interact with each other outside of school and build friendships.” 

Established in 1939 as the Ninth Street Boys Club, BGCGC did not open their doors to girls until 1982. Today, with 12 Clubs in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and now, Clermont County, the Clubs provide a safe place during non-school hours for boys and girls ages 5 to 18. It’s where they receive homework help beyond the classroom, are fed a hot, healthy, nutritious meal and are required to participate in 45 minutes of daily physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  In general, the majority of the Club members qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunch programs, which means they come from families that are at or below the poverty level. 

In 2010, BGCGC embarked on a new strategic plan in an effort to deepen the impact on the youth it serves. No longer a place to go after school to just hang out with friends and play basketball, the new model focused on three key crucial outcomes to a young person’s growth: Graduate (academic success); Fit For Life (healthy lifestyles); and Ready to Serve (good citizenship and character). 

The Graduate program gives the youth access to about 45 minutes of tutoring, mentoring, literacy, math support or computer-based instruction each day. Fit for Life ensures the members participate in physical activity to teach them the importance of staying active for a healthy lifestyle, and includes healthy meals and snacks. Ready to Serve ranges from traditional service projects such as cleaning up a community park to serving meals to other Club members and helping them with homework.  

“I’ve really been impressed with the community support for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Clermont County,” says Britton Martin, director of the Clermont County Clubs. “These kids have really impressed me too.”

Martin has been with BGCGC for about 10 years and was in charge of the Clem & Ann Buenger Boys & Girls Club in Newport before moving to the New Richmond Club. The acquisition was finalized in April, but Martin has been working to restructure the program for several months prior. 

“What we did is put some structure in place, separated the kids into age groups and established a consistent schedule of activities,” Britton says. Recently, the fifth and sixth graders went out on a hunt for rocks to paint on a smiling face and some kind words. “They called them ‘Rocks of Kindness’ and went around handing them out to people in the neighborhood.”  

BGCGC recognized a need in New Richmond for a certified teacher on staff to build relationships with the schools that Club members attended to find out what topics the kids are covering in class. “I am so proud of our kids and our staff who are paving the way for the kids so that they continue on the path to a great future. It really is all about the kids and opening doors for them” says Brent Seelmeyer, president of BGCGC.  

There are 11 school districts in Clermont County. The goal is to expand the program to ensure that every young person who needs it has access to the Boys & Girls Club programs, Britton says. One week the kids went around the neighborhood collecting owl pellets to dissect and learn what the owls eat, he says. The kids are also growing vegetables and learning how to make healthy snacks like celery and peanut butter rather than reach for candy or chips. 

Wyler says the juvenile crime rate has declined and credits the services the Boys & Girls Clubs offer. The juvenile crime rate in most communities spikes between 3 and 7 p.m., which is the exact time the Boys & Girls Clubs are open. “We see this more as preventative medicine and putting the kids on a path of success.”

BGCGC provides much more than a safe place to go after school. Through the help of the organization’s board members, staff, supporters and volunteers, BGCGC is changing the outcomes for all kids that walk through their blue doors everyday.

To learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, visit www.bgcgc.org.