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Nonprofit View: Boys & Girls Club adapts, shifting focus from after-school to all-day programs | COMMENTARY

The year 2020 will surely go down in history as one of the most challenging we have endured. The novel coronavirus has disrupted every aspect of our lives, forcing us to adapt to a new normal. Local businesses and nonprofits have reinvented themselves, finding new ways to do business.

At the Boys & Girls Club our mission is serving young people, especially those who need us most, so it’s imperative for us to embrace reinvention and find creative ways to stay engaged with our youth and community.

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At the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster we have been committed to providing solutions to the question on everyone’s mind all summer – will kids go back to school in the fall? Many proposals were being considered about how to handle school and each had pros and cons. Carroll County Public Schools will have online learning for at least the first quarter.

Overall, what we can all agree on is that the shift to online learning has been difficult. None of us were prepared to be thrust into unconventional modes of learning and as a result kids have struggled to adapt. Many families lack computers and/or internet service in their homes, which makes accessing online learning resources even more difficult.

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As our school system has been formulating plans for virtual learning schedules this fall, the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster has also been planning for ways to support our kids, families and teachers. We are concerned about the impact that continued distance learning will have on our youth academically and socially. We realize that extended periods of time away from school, friends and trusted adults is difficult and can trigger depression, anxiety or increase risk taking behaviors in our youth.

In response to these needs, Boys & Girls Club will shift its focus this fall from an after-school program to an all-day program. Members can come to the club for educational support and social/emotional wellness programs. This will be done on a rotating basis and adhere to all social distancing regulations. Tutors will work with kids to ensure they are making academic progress and technology will be available so students can access online resources.

In addition, Boys & Girls Club will continue to provide its critical leadership and character development programs. Having access to the Club will provide kids with a “sense of normal” during this scary and challenging time. We believe it is vital for our youth to connect with something familiar as they begin to find their own “normal.” Boys & Girls Club of Westminster like other nonprofits is reinventing itself and learning to adapt to new challenges. It is our goal to provide solutions that support families, kids and the community.

We must remember our kids are unintended victims in this crisis and if we listen carefully they provide the insight we need. When asked how COVID-19 affected him, Steven Zbignewich, our Maryland Youth of the Year, said it simply: “It’s a lot; I miss my friends, I miss coming to the Boys & Girls Club and I sometimes even miss school.”

Erin Bishop is the marketing director for the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster.

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”

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