When I found out about Adulting Day put on by the Boys & Girls Club of Vernon? I said give me the DETAILS! Luckily I was able to chat with Director of Operations Morgan Lindsey to learn all about this annual event and the impact it has on their community’s teens.
My first question is always can you tell me a bit about your Club?
We are a little unique, we have one unit that is an entire square block with 2 full-size gyms, 17 program areas, and an average 400 average daily attendance. We serve six different school districts that bus to us, and especially in the summer we get youth from all around. During the school year, youth in grades K-5 rotate through all programs and special areas, with 6th grade and older having choice of activities in the Teen Center and scheduled classes on Fridays.
Our teen population right now kind of drops off after 8th grade, which is one of the reasons Adulting Day is so special- its is targeted to the seniors in our school districts.
Where did the idea for Adulting Day come from?
This was CEO Sarah Hernandez’s brainchild four years ago with Vernon College. It started off being mainly about the little adult hacks like how to do laundry or change a tire, these kinds of real things that young adults need to know about.
We realized that there were a lot of teens who were graduating without a plan, not immediately attending college or knowing what career path they wanted to take, so they needed to be our target audience. Originally it was held during the last week of school, but when we identified that target audience we decided to move it earlier in the year, before Spring Break. We felt it would make a bigger impact with out the impending “Senior-itis”. We invite all of the schools in the area, because most of the teens were Club kids at one point! We coordinate with our largest high school so that this is held on a school day and teens can come, their school counselors are able to register youth as a large group and provide transportation for the event.
How has the event changed over the years?
It started off with the idea of “Life Hacks” and our vision has evolved over the years, from home tricks kind of topics to things that are really impacting our kids. Topics like mental health care, how to choose a good relationship, what does it look like to invest, what is credit card debt, these “trappings” that we don’t really talk about and are just as useful as how to sort your laundry (which I don’t do haha).
Me neither! You just had this year’s event, how did it go?
It was great! Unfortunately a winter storm meant we had to change the date last minute, but we still had a really great group of teens that included 2 of our local ISDs. It’s an all-day event that includes four 30-minute workshops, a keynote speaker, lunch, some free time to play in the Club (we have games set up or they can go to the playground- you’d be surprised how many want to go outside as their “last” time as kids to be on a playground!), and an expo set up like a job fair. The local Farm Bureau came out and made lunch for everyone, and we had our speakers and the representatives from the expo space come out and eat with the teens and talk with them. The speakers both this year and last all said that the most impactful moments came from these side conversations, those smaller moments.
To make it fun and also to incentivize the teens to get the full experience, we created bingo cards. Teens had to go to four of the scheduled workshops. Some had maximum caps so that helped everyone to spread out and maybe go to something that traditionally wouldn’t appeal to them. They also get signatures from the expo booths, so that they have to speak face to face with a least two people. Then with the cards we do drawing for prizes that were donated including tablets and airpods and scholarships, one that the Club provided and then some from our local college.
I take it this is all led by volunteers, how do you recruit and then prepare them?
It’s all about RELATIONSHIPS. We are a small community so we originally reached out to a lot of people we knew, and posted to social media asking for others. Now people come to us! We asked places like banks, the hospital, the Sheriff’s department, really focusing on those local community partners we’ve cultivated over the years. Expo vendors also provided speakers on topics like getting financial aid, things to know before college, tutors for test prep, etc. This year because we wanted topics like mental health and healthy relationships, we connected with our local community college and they helped us to find some speakers. We also work hand in hand with the school districts, they are a huge help.
The very start of the day we host a breakfast for all of the speakers. We give them thank you bags and I also talk about how to engage with the teens. I really highlight the importance of those impactful moments, having conversations, more than just going through a PowerPoint. I told them to yes tell the teens about your career and any information you think will help them, but also tell them how you got there. Because most of us at 18 didn’t know we were going to be Director of Operations for a Boys & Girls Club or in something like finance, so tell the story so the teens know its more than just coming up with a certain plan, it’s about having the skill base underneath you that evolves with the plans, and finding your way through adulthood.
How do the teen participants respond to Adulting Day?
They came in kind of apprehensive, not really enthused haha. But by the end of the day when we were asking what they’d learned, it was all positive! Having the bingo cards and the prize drawings really helps to get them hyped and engaged.
But it comes down to moments like this- a senior I didn’t know attended the healthy relationships session, and she came to my office afterwards and told me that she realized that she was in an unhealthy one. I told her “Do you understand, if you can prevent yourself from entering that, you might change your entire family’s history, from here on out. You can break chains that you didn’t even realize.”
What advice would you give to a Club who wants to host their own Adulting Day?
- Start planning way ahead of time! We’re already planning our date for next year, and then once it is set we send an email to the previous year’s speakers.
- We use a Google form for registration so everyone registers through the same link, makes it simple. There’s a drop-down button for expo representative or speaker or teen, so then we can easily sort through it on our end.
- Create the schedule of events early and be sure to push out as much communication as possible, including FAQs to the presenters and expo participants, so they feel comfortable in their responsibilities.