A chapter of the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club has another program to help reach youths and help provide consistent support for those who might need it.
The Boys & Girls Club's Fairfield Avenue location now contains a 21st Century Community Learning Center, which means the organization has been awarded a federal grant that provides for the creation of a safe learning environment for at-risk youth during non-school hours. The learning center is exactly that: It has dedicated support for tutoring and other academic enrichment initiatives such as mentoring, in addition to the Boys & Girls Club's standard offerings of Power Hour homework assistance, physical education, character training and other programs.
The learning center features tutors from Specialty Tutoring and also features partnerships with Science Central, Marshall White and the Unity of Performing Arts Foundation and Growing Minds, another tutoring service in Fort Wayne. The learning center is also aligned with three Fort Wayne Community Schools elementaries -- Fairfield, Harrison Hill and Abbett -- with the potential for more partnerships in the future, according to Joe Jordan, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne.
But why is a program such as this important, or relevant?
With an exceedingly high number of those the Fairfield Avenue club serves being below the poverty level, and with some coming from homes where English is not the first language, providing those youths with hope and opportunity, with a structured framework, is increasingly recognized as crucial before negative decisions can be made as adults.
"We empower kids. We help them to believe in themselves, hope to instill self-esteem and self-awareness, even if their circumstances are challenging," Jordan said. "It's not just economics that can limit young people. We help them understand that they can be great, that they can achieve more than their surroundings might indicate."
"I think that's the biggest thing we can do for children," Jordan said.
The grant provides $150,000 per year for four years, and Diana Swayze, the former director of programming and services at the East Wayne Center, will manage the program. There are 50 children in the program thus far, and both Swayze and Jordan expect the program to grow.
"Sometimes, we look at the end result for young people when something negative has happened, and we don't truly consider how they got there," Swayze said. "For instance, when you get a kid who isn't doing well academically, you have to try to reach that child in order to give them a chance. That's what the Boys & Girls Club offers. We give them somewhere to go that is positive, that has others in their age group, with the goal of avoiding those negative outcomes in the first place."
The Fairfield Avenue location of the Boys & Girls Club is located at 2609 Fairfield Ave., with the club open from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Fridays during the school year. Other club locations are 3005 McCormick Place, 2857 Millbrook Drive, and the newest location at 2536 E. Tillman Road.
Membership is open to youths between the ages of 6 and 18 years old, with a $15 fee for a year of programming. The fee is $35 for a family of three or more. A child must be a club member to participate in the 21st Community Learning Center; for more information, contact Swayze at 744-0998, ext. 20.