Black History Month is an important time of the year to commemorate and honor the achievements and contributions of the Black community throughout history. This month serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for racial equality and a celebration of the progress that has been made. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we believe that it’s never too early to start learning about the significance and impact of Black History. By making sure the future generations understand the challenges, triumphs, and legacy of the Black community, we’re creating a brighter future for all. 

In this blog, we will share four ways to honor Black History Month and empower the youth in Grand Rapids. From cultural celebrations to community outreach, join us as we celebrate and appreciate the richness of Black culture, history, and heritage.  

Attend a Community Event 

Attend a community event that celebrates Black History Month. Whether it’s a performance, a lecture, or a museum exhibition, this is a great way to get children involved in the community and to educate them about the ongoing fight for racial equality. 

Create Art 

Encourage young ones to create art that reflects their experiences and the experiences of the Black community. This could be a painting, a sculpture, or a performance. Art is a powerful tool for self-expression and can encourage our youth to connect with their heritage and the experiences of African Americans. 

Volunteer together 

Volunteer together as a group to support a local organization that is working to improve the lives of Black people in Grand Rapids. This could be a community center, a food bank, or a mentorship program. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and to help understand the importance of giving back. 

Support Black-Owned Businesses  

It can be difficult for any business to succeed, but Black entrepreneurs have historically faced unique challenges.  Supporting a black-owned business can help stabilize a community, create more opportunities, build economic vitality, and promote productivity and resilience. It can also promote building relationships and boost community morale. 

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we celebrate and honor Black History Month by acknowledging the significant contributions of Black individuals and recognizing the potential of future Black leaders in our Clubs. Understanding Black history is crucial and through open and honest discussions on race and systemic racism, we aim to foster healing and empower the next generation of leaders. When our members learn about Black icons and leaders, they are inspired to dream big and make a positive impact in their communities. Our Clubs aim to offer positive role models and programs to help young people reach their full potential, embracing and celebrating their unique identities and cultures.   

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Someone to look up to. Someone to talk through worries and bad days. Someone to celebrate victories big and small. A good mentor is there to listen, to support, and to shine light on potential. Many of us would not be where we are, without the support of mentors. From Nelson Mandela to Bill Gates, some of the most successful people in history often attribute their success to mentors.  

And while most of our programs focus – as they should – on the benefits of the youth, adults also greatly benefit from mentoring kids. Being a mentor goes far beyond the rewarding feeling of “giving back”. Molding the future generation of leaders can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but for mentors, it also grants a chance to develop personal skills in various areas. Having socially responsible individuals invested in our youth’s future directly, not only impacts the community, but it has an effect in society as a whole. 

Here are some of the benefits that you will experience when getting involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids programs: 

Personal Fulfillment  

Wisdom learned through life experience is valuable to pass along. The sense of accomplishment that comes with giving young people time and knowledge to help them reach their full potential is priceless. By simply sharing your own learnings, you’re able to have a continuing impact on a person’s future.  Mentoring allows you to give something of your own, that is selfless and fulfilling.  

Authentic Relationships  

One of the greatest rewards of mentoring youth is gaining an appreciation of the reality of what the next generation is faced with and providing them with resources to positively guide them in their journey. Successful mentors understand that positive changes in the lives of young people do not happen automatically or overnight. Mentorship fosters deep, authentic relationships that take time to build and maintain, and they as a reminder of patience, tolerance, and understanding.  

Improved Communication Skills 

Articulating ideas through effective communication and storytelling is something that many great leaders embody. Initially, mentoring relationships revolve around building trust and rapport and the best way to do so is by listening carefully and providing feedback. Acting as a mentor provides the opportunity to develop active listening skills, practice taking internal knowledge, and verbally communicating it with someone; all core skills needed to be a successful leader.  

Mental Health Boost 

Making time for others who want to learn from you reinforces any doubt of your worth. Youth mentors experience an increase in self-confidence, reaffirmation of their abilities, and a motivation boost, especially when their mentee is successful. The opportunity to break the monotony, have fun, and “blow off steam”, provides a time away from the stresses of work and life. People who serve as mentors experience lower levels of anxiety, and an improved self-esteem from the act of helping others achieve their goals.  

Sense of Perspective 

Every conversation you have with someone from a different background, that has had different life experiences, teaches you something. Being exposed to thoughts and ideas that may be fundamentally different from your own can certainly be stretching for some; but it is also a chance for mentors to listen, engage, and reflect. You can hold onto your beliefs, but you may also find yourself changing your opinion and having an opportunity to learn something new when considering alternative opinions.  

The reward of mentoring is the absolute joy of seeing an acorn seed grow into a mighty oak. Being able to witness your mentee rise to the pinnacle of success is the ultimate sense of accomplishment. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, it is our vision to cultivate a healthy future for our community and that starts by nurturing our youth. It’s true, mentorship will challenge you, but it will be just as impactful to your growth as that of the child. 

If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of mentoring, contact us today to learn more about how you can get involved and help shape the future of our community.

Fill out an individual application online, a group volunteer interest form online, or contact Zoe Willoughby at zwilloughby@bgcgrandrapids.org or 616-233-9369. 


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