A+ Education at the Clubs

Upon entering any of the Grand Rapids Clubs at any time, the organization’s mission to enable youth to “reach their full potential… through education” will be distinctly evident. With full expectation that each one will raise their hand, Paul I. Phillips Club director, Coach O., calls out to the students circled on the gym floor in front of him, “Who here is a genius?” A mural in Paul I.’s Learning Center features the words, “What’s Your Gift?” with a picture of brain beneath. A “Word of the Week” poster adorns the office wall at Seidman. At Steil, Club members join the dinner line after answering Mr. Chris’ trivia questions.

Each of our Clubs partners with its nearby schools. This partnership takes different forms, such as transportation. Steil does school pick-ups from Sibley Elementary – actually walking with the students due to its close proximity – and driving students from Harrison and Stocking. Seidman picks up students from Hope Academy, and Paul I. currently picks up students from Gerald R. Ford Academy. Another area in which BGC partners with schools is through its engagement with Kent School Services Network (KSSN). As part of this network, BGC attends monthly meetings of the Community School Leadership Team, where upcoming events are shared, as well as needs within the schools and/or within BGC or other organizations. Such awareness allows those within the network (including our Clubs) to strive to meet those needs!

Each Club holds a daily Power Hour. This time is designated for students to work on their homework, with the warm, willing assistance of staff members. Kids who don’t have homework can choose between reading a book or completing a grade-level-appropriate worksheet. At Seidman, Ms. Julie offers tutoring for those who need a little extra boost. With over forty years of experience as an educator, she is a priceless asset to our students! And she doesn’t stop at “just” tutoring… she pitches in to facilitate other programs as well. One example is teaching rhythm, pitch, and tone to a group of kids. The music they collaborated to make was such a joy to hear!

When Power Hour is over, the learning doesn’t stop! Staff often facilitate educational activities for the youth after they are split into their age groups – Cadets, ages 6-8; Intermediates, ages 9-12; and Teens, 13-18. Ashlyn, an 11-year-old at Paul I., shared that she comes to BGC every day. “My favorite thing here is playing math games,” she mused, “I’m really good at math.” Two 7-year-old girls at Paul I. sat together on a stool in the Cadet Room, writing math equations on a marker board. “Oops! You forgot a 4! And your 5 is backward!” one told the other. They giggled together and fixed the numbers, going on to do another equation. At Seidman, Mr. Nick handed out word searches and mazes. When students were finished, he checked their work carefully to make sure it was completed with best efforts, then rewarded those efforts with a small trinket or sheet of stickers. At Steil, one 9-year-old boy asked if he could help the younger kids with their homework, commenting later that “it was hard to tell them how to do it without telling them the answers, but I figured it out! Maybe I could be a teacher someday!” Maybe, indeed, young sir. Keep striving to reach your full potential!

This blog post was written by our Communications Intern – MaryAnne Flier! We asked MaryAnne to share a little about herself:

Hello! My name is MaryAnne, and I’m a senior at Aquinas College (though a small club member recently pointed out that I’m a lot older than most college students). I have two kids, Jackson (almost 10) and Maya (7), and when Jackson started school in 2016, I started classes part-time at GRCC. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I just took a variety of classes that interested me, working toward a general Associate of Arts degree. In 2018, I fell into the field of geography when my professor taught a required geography course through the lens of social justice (something about which I’m super passionate). I finished my A.A there in 2020, then transferred to Aquinas, where I’m double-majoring in Geography and Community Leadership and plan to graduate this coming spring!

For my Community Leadership major, I’m doing an internship with Boys and Girls Club this semester, capturing stories of the day-to-day in each of the clubs and sharing them to social media and the BGC blog. I’ve also been able to attend a couple of community partnership meetings. It’s early in the semester, but it has already been such a privilege to be involved with such a wonderful organization. My kids attend the clubs with me and absolutely love their time at each one; I feel like their involvement gives me a little extra insight into the positive impact that BGC has on its members! 

When I’m not at school or doing homework (or at Boys and Girls Club), I love to get out and hike with my dog and also enjoy reading and cooking/baking!