for the teens at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, being involved in the club is about education and giving back.
Teens, between the ages of 13-18, who attend the club have to be involved during their time at the facility. Programs like the Torch Club in which students run a snack bar to raise money to go on field trips, an entrepreneur class and a variety of STEM-related classes from manufacturing to learning about business and science technology are among some of the programs they offer the nearly 100 teenagers.
“There they are learning business practices and money management,” said Katie Leao, director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada. “It starts them getting used to community service and overall goals.”
Leao said the goal is to get the kids to experience hands on learning in order to make sure they are really taking in the lessons.
“We try to give a hands on experience and it changes their way of thinking,” Leao said. “...We provide a supplemental education to the kids, so what they learn in school and we try to match that because it is out job to help prepare them for life after high school.”
One way the clubs help students achieve this is through their Leadership in Training program, which is an eight-week curriculum that requires the teens to complete 75 hours of community service. Upon completion of the program, the teens can work for the Boys and Girls Clubs to earn money for field trips or anything in the teen center and can sponsor and mentor the youths under 12.
“They are out giving their time and they love it,” Leao said. “It is teaching them there is a whole other world out there and there are lots of opportunities to help and be a better person.”
To complete the hours, the teens can volunteer Mondays and Wednesdays. On Mondays, the teens work at an equine facility for kids with disabilities, helping muck the stalls or helping the counselors work with the kids and Wednesdays the students spend the morning at the Greenhouse Project at Carson High School, planting and harvesting the crops.
“I love it here,” said Boys and Girls Clubs member 14-year-old Margaret Lewis. “It is so much fun and I love being outside. We get to do so many cool things.”
Lewis, along with two of her fellow Boys and Girls Clubs members, spent Wednesday morning at Carson High harvesting radishes, kale and chard. The vegetation the teens harvest are donated to local organizations such as F.I.S.H.
“I love (volunteering at the Greenhouse)... We learn how to do stuff to build our own gardens — there are lots of plants I haven’t gotten to see before and we get to eat healthy,” said 14-year-old Angel Natividad. “I think it is nice that Boys and Girls Club set us up to go out and volunteer.”
Having the teens work at the Greenhouse is beneficial for everyone, especially the teenagers who learn about nutrition, harvesting, aquaponics and composting.
“A great part of our mission is to educate so we try to reach all ages,” said Greenhouse Project manager Cory King. “The Boys and Girls Club enjoy coming out so its just great because I know they have fun and hopefully are learning something too.
“There is an inherent benefit of being out in nature, even if it isn’t in the hills or woods, there is lots of nature around us.”
Leao said they like to give the students plenty of options for productive things to do at the clubs. Even if they aren’t volunteering, they are still required to participate in the various programming.
“We give so many opportunities that they wouldn’t be doing otherwise,” Leao said. “People think the kids come and just hang out and that is it. It is a fun place and they have free time too ... the goal is to take them, find out their interests and motivate them where they are struggling and lift them up.
“We provide the basis that they aren’t getting at home and that’s why it’s important (to have the Boys and Girls Clubs) because it is a place to go to be safe and be teens. We give them a beautiful space to see it grow and see them enjoy themselves.”