It’s back-to-school season, which means millions of kids will be left home alone after school. With an increase in dual-income homes, many working parents simply aren’t able to be there with their children after they get home from school.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has been providing an alternative to children being on their own since 1860. With a wide range of after-school programs across the United States, the organization has positively influenced tens of thousands of children.
Actor Courtney B. Vance was one of those children who benefited from the BGCA support system. Between the ages of eight and thirteen, he frequented his local club (called the Boys Club back then), where he looked forward to playing ping pong and creating arts and crafts projects. Another perk of his local club? A nearby park where he played Little League football and tennis.
For Vance, there is one man who stood out in his years with the BGCA, which included not only attending after-school care programs but also the club’s summer day camps.
Mr. George Brown, says Vance, ran the summer camp and took a special interest in the boy who would grow up to receive a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in “Lucky Guy.”
After getting to know Vance and his family, Mr. Brown told his parents that he could qualify for a scholarship at Detroit Country Day School, an exclusive private school far outside of his parents’ budget, where Mr. Brown taught history and coached track.
The decision was made, and it was one that Vance called “was a life-changing event for me.”
He attributed every good thing that followed in his life to this turning point and to his time at the Boys Club: “Harvard, Yale, theater, movies…everything came from them putting me at that very, very safe and wonderful place.”
Vance is far from the only child who found a mentor through BGCA. Mentors, he says, are mother and father figures when parents can’t be there. He’s had mentors at every stage of his life.
“Life is about people who help you. Everyone needs people to help them. You cannot make it by yourself.”
Vance is an avid supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, frequently speaking at national and regional events, and hosting the Alumni Hall of Fame event annually. He believes in the power that the BGCA has in shaping a child’s life, as he has experienced it firsthand.
“All it takes is one young person’s life to be shifted like mine was.”
With over 4,000 local clubs in the United States, the BGCA strives to give all children — regardless of their zip code — equal opportunities to thrive. Providing positive environments and safe, structured places with caring adult mentors after school is essential to positive youth development, and this helps young people to meet their full potential as adults.
Each club offers a variety of programs geared toward each age group, including sports and recreation, health and wellness, education, the arts, career development, and character and leadership.
Vance is far from the only BGCA alumni who was so largely impacted by his experience: 54% of alumni say the Club really saved their lives. With 16 million alumni, including actors like Vance, athletes and business leaders, it’s clear that the impact the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has had is lasting and will continue with the next generation.
Correction: August 24th:
The August 24th print version misspelled Courtney B. Vance’s name. It is Courtney B. Vance not Courtney Vance.
Susan Gullory, [email protected]