The Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City is a lot more than an after-school club for children.
“Our approach is a whole-child approach,” said Wade Middaugh, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club. “We’re here to clear any obstacles we can for kids and set them up for success.”
Teaching the building blocks of success
With two locations serving both the east and west Jefferson City communities, the Boys and Girls Club partners with parents, schools and the community to provide the tools they need to be successful.
A big part of that success is education-based. The club provides tutoring for children that might benefit from additional coaching after school. They partner with schools to pull grades every quarter, so they know which kids will benefit from extra help.
“Any child that’s falling behind in any core subject, we have academic tutoring and coaching available for them,” Middaugh said. “We’re making sure our kids are staying at their grade level or above.”
The Boys and Girls Club also provides opportunities for kids to explore STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and engage in hands-on learning with activities like 3D printing and robotics.
Helping kids find their interests and passions is a big component of the club, which offers culinary and gardening clubs, dance, recording studios, choir, skateboarding club and more.
For teens, the club focuses on practical life skills.
The goal is to make sure graduates are ready for the next step in life, whether that be post-secondary education or entering the workforce.
“So again, a lot of that for us is making sure our teens know what opportunities are available to them, what opportunities they have, and making sure that they’re prepared for that next step,” Middaugh said.
But they’re always looking at the current needs of all their kids.
“Over the last several years we’ve seen an increased need for social and emotional learning,” Middaugh said. “How kids are feeling about themselves, how they’re interacting with other kids, and mental health support. We’re seeing that kids are needing more and more support in that.”
The Boys and Girls Club is adding social and emotional programs to coincide with character-building programs. The club also employs staff that is trained in trauma-informed practices to be able to meet the needs of children that come from a background of trauma.
But sometimes success comes from making sure children have their basic needs met. “All our kids here receive a hot dinner every day and a snack before they go home,” Middaugh said. “We make sure they have a hot meal and that they’re fed because if they’re not fed the night before, they’re certainly having a harder time in school the next day.”
Teaching healthy lifestyle habits is a big component of the club’s programming, which teaches nutrition, sports and recreation throughout the year.
Established in Jefferson City in 1995, the club has a history of providing a safe place for children to stay after school. But in the past seven years, Middaugh says the club has exploded in growth. “When I started here in 2015, we didn’t have a building and we were all school-based,” he said.
Through fundraising and grants, the club was able to build the Railton Center in 2017, which serves kindergarten through high school-age children on the east side of Jefferson City. The east location also has a dedicated space for teens.
“Coming into this building in 2017 was a huge moment for our club,” Middaugh said. “It was really beyond our dreams.”
The same year, the club also added the Sadowski Center to offer services to the west side of town for kindergarten through fifth grade. In 2018, they expanded to another location in Holts Summit.
The expansion of the club is extremely important in that it allows the club to help more kids, Middaugh said.
“We’re always looking for how we can serve more kids and improve the level of service we’re able to offer,” he said.
Outside of the regular school year, the Boys and Girls Club also offers summer programming. Students have similar opportunities as they do throughout the regular academic year.
The club opens as an after-school program during summer school and then remains open all day for the rest of the summer during the week. Middaugh is particularly excited that the new west location, the Sadowski Center, will double the opportunities the Boys and Girls Club can provide to the community.
Parents can enroll K-12 children for the summer session online now.
“Parents just go on the parent portal, and all the information will be there like it is during the school year,” Middaugh said. The portal tells them which facility they’ll be at for the summer based on the school they attend.
Middaugh emphasized the affordability the Boys and Girls Club strives to maintain for its students. “If families are on assistance, their fees are covered for the summer. If not, there’s a $25 activity fee and then it’s $35 a week for the summer,” he said.
If families want to enroll more than two kids, the club doesn’t charge families for more after the second child. “No child is ever turned away,” Middaugh said.
For more information on the Boys and Girls Club, visit their website at bgcjc.com.