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A Safe Haven after School

Boys and Girls Clubs helping “to inspire and enable all young people”

Steven Cornette leads a group from Boys and Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne ­Arundel County at Westfield Annapolis Mall.

    “B-G-C-A-A, b-g-c-a-a, b-g-c-a-a,” students chanted as they embarked on their operation to spread the word about the Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the Westfield Annapolis Mall.
    These 50 or so local kids were a small part of Boys and Girls Club of America’s larger movement to raise awareness about the club mission and kick off the Great Futures Campaign for America’s Kids. The after-school organization works “to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” said Denasia, an eight-year-old chosen to recite the mission. On campaign kick-off day, clubs around the country went out into their communities. Google, Facebook and other social media helped the cause by punctuating their users’ activities with messages about Boys and Girls Clubs.
    The new campaign aims to raise awareness of the 15 million kids across the country with nowhere to go after school. Boys and Girls Clubs provide a safe destination. Kids get involved in sports, dance, technology and other activities.
    The smiling kids who went to the Annapolis Mall enjoyed being promoters. For each of them, the Club means something special and different. Amaya Weston, 11 years old, likes “that we dance all the time and our girl-talk times. We also get to look up to really nice counselors.”
    Andre Sutton, nine years old, has fun in the computer rooms.
    Steven Cornette, new CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Anne Arundel County, has been with a part of Boys and Girls Club since he was nine years old in Florida and has worked with it for 20 years. He values Boys and Girls Club as “a tool for kids to engage with kids from all walks of life from different areas to different socio-economic backgrounds,” he said. “And kids have a good time.”
    Kaitlyn Keefer, who started working with Boys and Girls Club of Anne Arundel County this May after her return from the Peace Corps, has volunteered in the past and participated in the sports club when she was younger. “The Club’s goals are important for our changing society,” she said.
    Sheronda Bowie, mother of four, has three children in the Boys and Girls Club of Anne Arundel County. “It is a great organization to help and foster growth,” she said. “My daughter has gained confidence, and it helped to break her out of her shell.”
    Don and Penny Walstrum, onlookers who happened to be at the mall during the event, approved. “I like to see the kids in organized activities,” he said.
    Anne Arundel County’s six branch clubs serve 2,200 young people yearly. Each club averages 24 to 90 kids every day after school. Meade Village and Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park Boys & Girls Clubs bus students from the local schools for a small fee. Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maryland, in North Beach, has 75 to 100 members and buses them in from local schools.
    Find the Boys and Girls Club closest to you at www.bgca.org. School-year memberships are $20.