Young people in today’s society face an ever-growing number of challenges. Social media has changed the way people interact, drug abuse is a running rampant across the country, poverty is impacting more and more families, and the very nature of existence has changed due to increases in violence (especially in regards to school shootings). Although overcoming so many obstacles may appear daunting, it doesn’t have to be. As the number of challenges increases, so do the number of programs designed to help young people succeed. Children do not grow up in a vacuum – it takes a concerted effort by everyone in the “village” to see that our young people are put in the position to fulfill their dreams and enjoy a happy and healthy future.
It can be easy to ignore the plight of others, especially when each of us struggles with their own hill to climb. Thanks to programs like the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley (BGCRRV), however, far fewer young people are falling through the cracks. In fact, 1415 youth were served by the organization in 2013. Each of these young people was provided with a variety of tools they are going to need to build a successful future. “It’s all about helping kids,” explained Robin Nelson, Executive Director of BGCRRV. “I can’t make a difference in a lot of kids’ lives, but I can make a big difference in a few kids’ lives.”
The Boys and Girls Club of the Red River Valley was chartered in 2007. Some people do not realize that it has combined with the Youth Commission, which has been in operation since 1972. “Some people don’t understand the make-up used to be the Youth Commission,” Nelson explained. “We continue to do all of those same programs.” Indeed, both the BGCRRV and the Youth Commission operate under the same mission, which is “to provide programs and services enabling all young people to achieve their full potential in a safe and caring environment.” In other words, the goal of the programs is simply to be part of the village that ensures our young people have the best possible shot at success.
Like many of society’s most valuable programs, the Boys and Girls Club is funded with grants and donations. Young people are charged a $10 annual fee, although that can be waived in certain circumstances. The club is open to young people ages 5-17. In 2013, the youth served were 52% male and 48% female, and 68% minority overall. 74% of children were from households earning less than $29,999, with 53% earning less than $14,999. “Our program is for kids that need it the most,” Nelson said. In addition to its regular programming, BGCRRV also offers preschool at its Rose Creek Youth Center. In total, there are three Boys and Girls Club youth centers (Fargo, Moorhead, Rose Creek) and 13 school locations across the region.
Most nonprofit organizations rely on the generosity of volunteers and the dedication of their staff members. The Boys and Girls Club is no different. The people who work with these children on a daily basis and have made a commitment to providing opportunities for success are the people that drive the organization. One of those people is Ronald Buck. Originally from Minneapolis, Buck has made a very definitive and identifiable impact on the BGCRRV and the youth they serve. “I like that I get to have a daily effect on kids’ lives and help them make good choices,” he said. “I like that I can help mold them into functional and responsible members of society.”
Nelson describes Buck as “always upbeat and high energy.” He is currently a graduate student at NDSU and plans to return to Minneapolis after completing his leadership and physical education degrees. A former member of the Fargo Invaders football team, Buck is looking forward to a career involving both teaching and coaching. Although the youth of the Red River Valley will be losing a strong friend and advocate, the Minneapolis area will be that much better once Buck returns.
The Boys and Girls Club focuses on so much more than just leisure activities and games. Staff members like Buck are committed to teaching kids the social and living skills they are going to need as they grow. The organization’s five core programming areas are:
Character and Leadership Development
Education and Career Development
Health and Life Skills
Sports, Recreation, and Fitness
Programs like BGCRRV understand that a well-rounded individual has the best chance for success. Combating the challenges young people now face takes the ability to make good decisions and stand up for oneself. It takes skills that extend beyond the classroom and into the reality of everyday life. “I like when I see someone doing something wrong and I can question them and help them work toward the correct decision,” Buck said. Indeed, that level of moral and ethical decision making is a life attribute that cannot be understated. It takes a determined and cooperative effort to give young people those skills.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Red River Valley is committed to ensuring every young person has an equal chance at success. Without such programs, many young people would be left to fend for themselves, often with less than desirable results. As a community, we need to embrace such programs and do everything necessary to make sure they continue to function at a high level. Often, that means giving of your time and resources. Volunteerism is a great way to be a part of the village that is raising our area’s young people. It only takes one person to make a substantial impact on a child – are you that person?
If you want to help make a difference in the life of a child, please contact www.bgcrrv.org.