ROCKPORT – After a brief bout of uncertainty, Rockport Elementary Principal Rick Hunt was happy to report the school will continue to partner with the Boys & Girls Club to provide after-school activities. For two decades now the Cliff Hagan Boys & Girls Club of Owensboro, Kentucky, has offered activities to help students improve academically, train physically in sports, and engage in other fun activities. However, that club is looking to focus its efforts on the Kentucky side of the river. Hunt noted that despite their departure, club leaders put the school in contact with the Evansville-based chapter, just in time to get organized locally for the coming school year.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a national organization founded in 1860. The group now operates under congressional charter with regional offices and clubs across the country.
Executive Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville Ron Ryan was the featured speaker of the Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s July Morning Brew, held in the cafeteria of Rockport Elementary. He informed those gathered that the club plans to fill five positions to oversee activities in Rockport, four part-time and one full-time. Volunteers are also quite welcome, but Ryan pointed out that Boys & Girls Clubs maintain high standards for everyone who will be working with kids, including a stringent background check.
“It’s not something that we take lightly,” said Ryan.
While the school year is rapidly approaching, Ryan expects the club should be ready to accommodate all students who want to participate. As of now, the club will host activities from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The club does not currently plan to operate during the summer, but hopes to add regular summer hours going forward. Ryan also hopes the club can gradually expand to provide services to all South Spencer schools, but for now all activities will be focused on Rockport Elementary.
Ryan, a former educator from Chicago, credited Boys & Girls Club chapters in that area with making a difference in many students’ lives. The organization is heavily supported by federal and state governments, and students who excel in its programs are often recognized at the highest levels. In fact, those distinguished as Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year have met with the President of the United States in the Oval Office consistently for decades.
While the organization is often associated specifically with supporting needy students, Ryan pointed out the club serves all those who wish to participate. He also emphasized that no two clubs are exactly alike, and activities are tailored specifically to the communities served by the club.
“We’re not McDonalds,” he said.
Ryan noted the club regularly sponsors field trips to allow students to better connect to their communities. For example, he expressed hope that Rockport Elementary members could enjoy a trip to local horse farms to experience that aspect of their home county. That said, Ryan also pointed to the school’s own facilities, including a large playground and open space for physical activities.
“We want our kids to experience the best,” he said. “But we need your support.”
Donations, volunteers and other assistance would be welcome. Those interested in helping should reach out to Principal Hunt.
There is a $10 annual fee for participating students, but kids unable to come up with the fee on their own can still attend. In such cases, those students may be allowed to work off the fee by helping out with cleanup after activities or taking on a more active role.
Hunt noted that while the Boys & Girls Club should not be confused with a childcare service, it certainly helps fill a gap for many parents unable to pick up their children until later in the afternoon. In that way, this three-hour period of extra tutoring and other activities can be a boon to both students and parents. If the program is successful and meets with sufficient support, these services may be available during most normal working hours of the summer months as well.
Hunt thanked the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville for working hard to ensure the organization will continue to have a presence here in Rockport for the foreseeable future.
“This is awesome,” he said. “We thought we were going to lose our after-school program. It’s an incredible organization.”