Boys & Girls Clubs have often been a place for kids and teens to find comfort and guidance in a safe, welcoming space. Since last weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, thousands of youth development professionals have talked with Club kids and teens about what happened – giving young people the space to share their thoughts, concerns and grief, while fostering a dialogue that can build understanding and take the first steps toward healing.
We’d scheduled previously to be in Charlottesville on Aug. 18, for an event with the American Counseling Association (ACA) to talk about the critical need for not only the physical safety but also the emotional wellbeing of developing young people. As kids and teens question what is happening in their communities, this conversation is more important now than ever. For millions of kids, Boys & Girls Club youth development professionals and mentors are anchors of support in the face of adversity, and it’s critically important that they are equipped with the right tools to guide young people during daunting times.
Together with the ACA and other resources like The Harvard School of Graduate Education, our Clubs’ youth development professionals can deploy resources in times of crisis to create a positive space for kids to share feelings and navigate traumatic events. For some young people, opening up and acknowledging an event has affected them can be the first step in beginning to process their feelings or fears. Youth development professionals at Boys & Girls Clubs work with kids and teens to comfort and reassure them that their voice does matter and that their opinions and feelings are important. Programs like our Keystone leadership club encourage and empower teens to explore issues that impact them and find constructive ways to channel emotions and create positive change in their communities.
The disturbing demonstrations and violence we witnessed last week are in direct opposition to every ideal of character and leadership that Boys & Girls Clubs model and strive to impress on the 4 million children and teenagers we serve. From tragedies like Charlottesville or the countless others that have come before, it’s our hope that young people, with positive guidance and a safe place to share, can learn the difference between right and wrong. Divisiveness, bigotry, and racism have no place in our society, and certainly not with our kids and in our Clubs. Boys & Girls Clubs of America encourages all parents, guardians, loved ones and youth development staff in Clubs across the country and on military installations abroad, to continue these conversations so that the next generation is equipped to support, nurture and make a positive difference in the future of America, for a brighter tomorrow for all.