This article originally appeared on Suffolk News-Herald website, on December 11, 2012.
By teaching them to make better life decisions, an after-school group’s program is helping Suffolk kids develop their unique potential.
Positive Action, for ages 6 to 14, “teaches them about having a positive self-concept,” said Reggie Carter, the Suffolk Unit director for Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia.
Made possible with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, the program involves 72 lessons lasting from 15 to 20 minutes and delivered over three months. The next session begins in January.
Carter, who has been with the club for nine years, listed some of the topics Positive Action covers: decision making, getting along with parents, paying attention in school, “and it gets all the way down (for the older kids) to drugs.”
“The curriculum that we get is very detailed,” he said. “The kids get pre-tests and post-tests, relating to drugs and about making positive choices. It gives them different scenarios and asks how they feel about it now (after completing the program). That’s how we really measure the outcomes.”
The Suffolk Boys & Girls Club meets year-round at John F. Kennedy Middle School. It operates weekdays from 2:30 to 8 p.m. during the school year and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer.
Other club programs include the Keystone Club, for ages 14 to 18, and the Torch Club, for ages 10 to 13.
The Keystone Club teaches leadership skills and civics; club members elect officers, run meetings, explore career options and do community service. The Torch Club promotes leadership and community service.
Some club members attend a youth-empowerment symposium in Virginia Beach, Carter said.
The club turns many children away from the dangerous paths of gangs and drugs, he said. “The biggest way we try to curtail that behavior is to try to make this a family environment,” he added. “We make sure they’re able to come and talk to us if they have an issue.”
Quality staff is the key to the club’s success, he said.
“You can have a million-dollar program, but if you don’t have relationships with the kids, you are going to lose them,” Carter said.
So far this year, 235 kids have attended the club. Numbers dropped in 2009, when the club started charging a monthly fee, Carter said, but “we are back on the rise.”
Annual membership costs $20 per child. Monthly fees for children 12 and under are $15, then $10 for the second child and $5 for additional children from the same family.
There’s no monthly fee for children 13 and over. “Our motivation behind that, we don’t want to have any hindrance for our teens — that’s our most at-risk group,” Carter said.
For more information, visit www.bgcseva.org