I heard about an event that the staff at the Don Kromer Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County puts on, and I absolutely had to hear more! Here’s my conversation with Branch Director LaCharles Green on how their Club does recognition in a special way.
First, tell me a little bit about your Club!
My Club is located in South Arlington, Texas, and is a traditional Club site. We serve from 175-185 kids daily, from ages 6-18. Our demographic is very diverse. The youth served here are from all different backgrounds.
To recognize youth who live up to your behavioral expectations, you’ve started holding special events- Night Out and Night In. What are those, and what kinds of things do you do?
We have what we call our B.E. G.R.E.A.T. expectations: Be kind. Encourage others. Go above and beyond. Respect self, staff, property and others. Engage in all activities. Actions have consequences. Tell the truth. In order to participate in these events, youth must meet these expectations. The part time staff are who actually select the youth based on the youth’s ability to consistently follow rules or to encourage youth who have made great improvement.
So far, the boys have gone “out” & the girls have stayed “in”, but we may switch that up this year. The boys have been bowling in the past and skating this year. The girls participate in different themed activities which usually end up being like a slumber party, with makeup and sweet treats.
You mentioned that part of these events is a chance to mentor, and to give some extra encouragement to youth who may be struggling. Why are those things important?
We don’t expect perfection out of our youth, but we do expect them to grow – and that’s what it’s all about! Some youth know or have heard about the event and that pushes them to try their best! Also, some of our youth have deceased parents or are from single parent households. This causes a void that needs to be filled. We’ve had situations where we hear about struggles from parents, and so to do something for the youth, we invite them to this event. It lets them spend some special time with staff and volunteers.
Our mentors from Women of Gold, which is a community service group made up of University of Texas Arlington students, are great and play a vital role in the success of our girls, especially since they are regular volunteers. Two of our staff are on the board so they connected us.
What do your youth think about the event? What do your staff think?
The youth LOVE it and the staff enjoy participating as well. The reward for the staff is truly seeing the kids work for it and be able to earn something on top of the normal fun. It’s a great feeling.
“It’s great to see the boys and even some of the staff out of their element when we host the events after hours”-Jonathan B., Healthy Lifestyles Specialist
“I watch Miss Shay do makeup ALL the time on YouTube, so I had to make sure I followed the rules so she could do mine and make me a princess!” – Club member McKinley G.
Why are the 5 Key Elements of Opportunities and Expectations and Recognition so important to you in your work with youth?
In our line of work and the kids we serve, it’s not uncommon for kids to have experiences at the Club that they normally wouldn’t have the chance to have and that’s why I feel we should provide those opportunities. In the same way, we are sometimes the only people who have expectations and HOLD them to those expectations. I can’t tell you how many times kids say “Well my teacher or my mom lets me do it,” even when they know it’s wrong! Recognition is always key even in the small forms- the high 5’s & good jobs, saying “I can see you tried” and “much better day than yesterday.” I love to see kids holding themselves and even the staff accountable.
What advice do you have for a Club Director who might want to try something similar, but doesn’t have budget or staff hours?
- Ask your staff and take their input. This was not my idea! It came together as a collaborative effort during a staff meeting. I just help facilitate.
- Flex your staff time or ask upper management about providing those extra hours to make this happen. At my Club, I ask staff to come in half an hour later than normal each day that week to allow for the two extra hours on Friday.
- Reach out to local companies or your organization’s development team to see if they can help make this opportunity happen for your kids. Getting either financial donations or donations in kind like food or the venue space can help.
- Ask youth what they want to do! Often, what they want is pretty easy or simple. Sometimes its just a game night, or to keep the teen center open a little longer. What they really want is to be able to hang out with staff or volunteers who care about them.
What are some special ways you recognize youth who are striving to be great? How do you encourage young people to try to meet expectations, even when they fail? Share your best ideas below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share!