Boys & Girls Club is all about the kids

Boys & Girls Program Aides enjoy a ride on the merry-go-round at Shoshone Park in Ignacio, Colo.
Photo Credit: Trennie Collins | SU Drum archive

For the past 12 years, the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has provided the families in the community with a safe and healthy environment. According to the BGC’s mission they help young people in the community with “developing good character, a respect of culture, diversity, academic excellence, and development of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.”

BGC is a youth development program that serves 284 members, currently they see 39 kids every day and typically see 80 kids a day in the summertime.

All of the staff is certified in one aspect or another, Cassandra Sanchez the site director has been in every position except Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Sanchez has been working with the program for the past eight years. “I started out as an intern and have been here ever since,” Sanchez said.

As a state funded program, the club currently employs six program aids who work directly with the kids. The current aid to kid ratio is 10 to 1 whereas the national average is 25 kids for every one aid. “They keep you on your toes,” BGC Behavioral Coordinator Journii Nez said. In the summertime when the club serves more kids, they will hire an additional 13 program aids.

For the last four years, the BGC has given out the National Youth Outcomes Initiative survey which calculates how well the club is doing and how the kids feel in the club’s environment. “Each year we go up positively in the survey” Sanchez shared. In the last spring survey, the club was ranked 48 percent higher than the national average.

Each of the staff members are highly trained. They go through CPR and First Aid training, mandated reporting, youth mental health first aid, driving training, pool safety and they implement solution focused training.

The club primarily serves kids from the age of six to thirteen now, but is open to all kids from ages six to eighteen. As the program grows, the goal is to continue providing “a fun opportunistic environment while also supporting kids by holding them accountable and setting expectations,” Sanchez states. “The kids need us but sometimes I need them.”

Through grants and volunteers, the program is able to take kids to a six-week course that helps with social and anger management skills through horse empowerment. They also implement a junior staff program that gives thirteen-to-eighteen-year-old’s leadership roles and gives them the opportunity to assist with the club. “We get to see them grow up,” Sanchez stated. “Some of the kids that were here when I started are now getting ready to graduate, which is crazy to think about.”

In addition to providing these programs and clubs to the youth in the community, the BGC helps with various fairs, i.e. health, job and we care fair; toy and food drives, as well as sitting in on committees and boards to involve the kids. “Being a part of their lives is the best part,” Nez affirmed.

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