When the Leader in Training program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada was extended this summer to include middle-schoolers, Aubree Diez, 11, knew she wanted to be a part of it.
“I thought I would do good,” she said. “I could be a good helper. If kids had a problem with each other, I could solve it without yelling.”
And a month into it, she’s happy she did.
“I think I’ve become a little more mature,” she said. “In the real world, there are conflicts you can and can’t solve. Leaders in Training helps you really feel what that’s like.”
The training program, traditionally available to students in eighth grade and above, opened to sixth- and seventh-graders in June. Interested members of the club must submit an application to be accepted and attend weekly meetings and maintain good behavior to remain a part of the program.
“I thought it was something where I would just get a handful of kids,” said Bridget Gordon, teen director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada. “But they all want to do it, which is great. It’s all about community service.”
The program, which requires participants to fill out time cards and provides training on interview and résumé skills, is a stepping stone into becoming a junior staff and earning an hourly wage once members are in high school.
Chelsea Phillips, 15, said the Leaders in Training program helped prepare her for the job as a junior staff member.
“You get hands-on training with the kids so you know what to expect,” she said. “It just kind of helped me out with getting more confident.”
Enrique Martinez, 13, hopes to turn his leadership training into a job as well.
“I really like this club,” he said. “I wish to work here as a staff later on.”
Laurie Gorris, chief professional officer for the club, said she would like to hire more of the students on as junior staff, but the grant from United Way, which provides the funding, has been significantly reduced this year. A $10,000 donation from Bank of America has helped, she said, but won’t last long beyond the summer months.
“Junior staff is dependent on funding,” she said. “We could hire up to 12 or 13 kids year round if we had adequate funding.”
While the program is aimed at developing leadership skills among the participants, it benefits the younger members of the club as well.
“We make sure everything’s fun for all the kids,” said Hannah Grundy, 11. “We try to get kids that are just sitting at tables to check out a game or something so they’re all doing stuff.”
And although members of the Leaders in Training program aren’t paid, Diez said, there is a different kind of compensation.
“It has its own rewards,” she said. “You get to explore (parts of the club) you don’t get to do as a regular member.”