Dvon Holland
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
404-487-5321
dholland@BGCA.ORG
Experts and Leaders Convene to Discuss Challenges Facing Military Youth and Families
White Paper from Boys & Girls Clubs of America Calls for Public/Private Partnerships to Provide Greater Access to Vital Programs and Services

ATLANTA – November 20, 2013 – The future of America’s national security hinges on strong military families, which need access to effective programs and services that help parents navigate civilian life after deployment, according to a recent gathering of some 80 military, business, academic, government and nonprofit experts in Arlington, Va.   As participants in Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) first Military Great Think event, the leaders were asked to develop recommendations for addressing the most urgent challenges faced by the nearly 2 million American children with a parent serving in the military.

According to statistics shared by experts at the event, military youth face unique academic, emotional and social challenges associated with multiple deployments and an average of six to nine moves before high school graduation.

The experts’ recommendations, contained in a white paper released today by BGCA, “Creating Great Futures for Military Families and Youth,” proposes action steps specifically focused on military families living in civilian communities (70 percent of all military families), many of whom are not aware of all the health, academic and social services available, and how to access them. Some of the report’s recommendations include:

  • Preparing Military Families Early: Experts recommended that support programs take a more preventative and proactive approach, beginning ahead of deployment and continuing through the duration of the tour of duty.
  • Developing a Centralized Service Delivery System:  The group proposed forming a centralized network of public and private sector delivery providers to connect military families living off-installation with the many reintegration and resiliency programs already available.
  • Providing Integrated Afterschool Programs for Military Youth: Participants observed that afterschool programs are critical for military youth when a parent is deployed, and should integrate school curricula with adult mentorship to help children overcome academic obstacles associated with deployment and frequent moves.

Prioritizing STEM Training to Prepare Military Youth for Post-Secondary Success: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines were identified as a priority for engaging military youth and better preparing them for success after high school. Thought leaders noted that military youth represent a strong talent pool for the next generation of men and women needed for STEM-related careers in the U.S. Armed Services.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of America serves nearly 500,000 military youth and their families through partnerships with every branch of the U.S. Armed Services, and we see firsthand that the need to support these families has never been greater,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO, BGCA. “We were honored to gather such an impressive group of experts for this critically important conversation, and look forward to leading a continuing effort to ensure success for the youth and families who are the backbone of our military services.” 

Moderated by CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian, the cross-sector Military Great Think panel included Sloan D. Gibson, president, United Service Organizations (USO); Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Lydia Marek, Ph.D., Human Development Research Scientist, Virginia Tech; C. Glenn Mahone, Jr., vice president, Aerojet Rocketdyne; Glen Walter, president and COO, Coca-Cola Refreshments; and Gregory R. Young, Navy Child and Youth Program Director, Navy Installations Command. Roundtable participants included retired U.S. Army general and Boys & Girls Club alumnus Gen. Wesley K. Clark, along with representatives from all five military service branches, corporate leaders, academic experts, government officials and nonprofit service providers.

“Overall, our military youth are strong. We have to scream from the rooftops that military children, by and large, are models of resilience,” said Charles Milam, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. “The Military Great Think gathering and its resulting recommendations can help bring more youth and families closer to the programs and services they need to sustain and enhance their resilience through the challenges they face.”

In response to the points raised during the Military Great Think, BGCA will form a Military Family Advisory Board. The Board will collaborate with participating organizations to create an actionable, outcome-driven plan to execute these recommendations. BGCA encouraged all participants to continue to provide feedback, and to invite more interested parties to join the discussion. The organization will issue more information about the Advisory Board in early 2014. 

To read or download the Military Great Think white paper, visit bgca.org/greatthink.

About BGCA’s Great Think
BGCA’s Great Think Series convenes key influencers and stakeholders to examine critical issues affecting America’s youth, such as meeting the increasing challenges facing military families, providing STEM educational opportunities to underserved youth, reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, and strengthening child protection and safety practices nationwide.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of America
For more than 100 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (GreatFutures.org) has enabled young people most in need to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, more than 4,000 Clubs serve nearly 4 million young people annually through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native American lands throughout the country, and serve military families in BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide. They provide a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun, friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Priority programs emphasize academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. In a Harris Survey of alumni, 57 percent said the Club saved their lives. National headquarters are located in Atlanta. Learn more at www.bgca.org/facebook and www.bgca.org/twitter.

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