Support Communities Can Count On
BGCA joined the U.S. Census Bureau as a national partner at the end of 2019 and immediately began equipping Clubs to mobilize their staff and members to help communities understand why and how to complete the 2020 Census. Club leaders and staff formed Complete Count Committees, trained teens to form Census Street Teams and connected recent grads with workforce opportunities as census takers. Since renters, Black residents, and people living in Native communities are typically undercounted, Clubs serving these communities played an important role in helping to ensure the equitable allocation of trillions in federal funding.
National Days of Advocacy Sets a New Record
What BGCA did in the beginning of 2020 laid the groundwork for what we were able to achieve in partnership with public officials during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether participating virtually or in person, a record-breaking 210 adults and youth representing BGCA and local Clubs from 45 states held 295 meetings with members of Congress. Boys & Girls Club representatives talked with policymakers about the most important issues facing youth and the solutions that Clubs provide to communities, such as workforce readiness and STEM education, nutritious snacks and meals, mentoring, opioid prevention and more.
COVID-19 Changes Everything
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, what many thought would be a short-lived crisis began upending and ultimately transforming the ways in which we learn, work, do business, maintain our health, connect with our loved ones, support each other and live our lives. The coronavirus took its toll on all of us but especially on communities of color and those living in low-income areas because of inequities in our health system and social services. When schools, businesses and workplaces abruptly closed, Clubs pivoted to provide meals and supplies, wellness checks, virtual programming and in some cases, emergency childcare to families of essential workers — and BGCA launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to help support this work on the front lines. Ever since, BGCA and Clubs have continued to adapt services to a changing post-COVID environment, transitioning from immediate relief to recovery to resilience in order to meet youth’s long-term needs, especially around virtual learning, workforce readiness, safety, equity and emotional wellness.
Graduation is Not Canceled
Senior year looked a lot different for the class of 2020. Though they worked diligently to learn, complete their coursework and plan for the future, many seniors had not set foot in a physical classroom in months and were managing their expectations about graduation while coping with feelings surrounding the pandemic. Boys & Girls Clubs, schools, families and friends alike rallied to celebrate the huge accomplishment of high school graduation with words of encouragement from BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark, advice from Club alumni and an abundance of virtual ceremonies and parties.
BGCA Affirms Black Lives Matter
In 2020, our country mourned the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others that stemmed from racism and systemic inequities that harm Black people. Though tragedies like these are not new, they reignited calls for real change and challenged us all to do more to advance racial equity. BGCA heeded the call by explicitly affirming that Black lives matter and doubling down to ensure our practices, policies, programs, priorities and organizational culture increase diversity, equity and inclusion at every level.
The First-Ever Virtual Keystone Conference
On July 24, we hosted our first-ever virtual National Keystone Conference, which convenes teens from across the country and U.S. military installations worldwide annually as part of BGCA’s Keystone Club leadership development program. The 2020 conference, themed “We the Youth Declare We Will Be Heard, Seen and United,” was led by an all-teen steering committee and for the first time, was open to all teens, whether Club members or not. Clubs hosted watch parties, and more than 2,600 participants attended the virtual event. Highlights such as the spoken word performance by Lemon Andersen, sessions on SMART Girls and Passport to Manhood programs, emotional wellness super session and interactive activities made it an event to remember for all.
Entering a New School Year Together
As the new school year began in fall and schools reopened in various, frequently changing capacities, local Clubs adapted to facilitate virtual learning. In addition to the programs and resources they typically provide, Clubs partnered with school systems to serve as virtual learning centers, giving youth safe places to go during and after the school day that have reliable access to technology like laptops, tablets, high-speed internet and Wi-Fi, enabling access to virtual classrooms and on-site support from adults.
Youth of the Year Take the Virtual Stage
Each year, teens from communities across the nation and U.S. military installations worldwide participate in BGCA’s Youth of the Year program, sharing their stories of service, leadership and triumph over adversity at Club, state, regional and finally, national celebrations as they pursue the singular honor of being named National Youth of the Year. In 2020, these highly anticipated events went virtual for the first time, giving every viewer a front-row seat to the passion, pride and excitement exuding from each young leader. Many extraordinary youth participated, and on October 6, Josias R. from the Bristol Boys & Girls Club Association in Connecticut was named the 2020-21 National Youth of the Year for his contributions to STEM education in his Club and community as well as his commitment to advocating for others on the Autism spectrum. In addition to a $50,000 scholarship, Josias was honored with a brand new 2021 Toyota Corolla.
Youth Get Involved in the Democratic Process
The ongoing global pandemic was just one factor that made the 2020 U.S. presidential election one for the history books. Voter turnout was the highest in our country’s history, with young voter turnout hitting record numbers, and the 117th Congress is the most diverse in history by many measures. Even youth who were still a few years from voting age made their voices heard and learned the importance of engaging civically and exercising their rights. BGCA and Clubs amplified these efforts and continued working across the aisle and securing strong bipartisan support for policies that aid youth in achieving positive outcomes.