There are 8 total Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sequoias in Porterville, and all of them are located at Burton School District school sites. The six other traditional club sites are located in Strathmore, Exeter, Ivanhoe, Farmersville, Tulare, and Visalia.
All of the clubs help students with their homework after school, and three of the key cornerstones of the clubs are Academic Success, Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.
Besides homework, there are sports activities, a snack every day, art projects, and more offered for kids after school.
“There’s an objective or goal for all the BGCS students to reach, the first is academic success, and all the kids need to complete their homework. We assist them, so the most important thing is that our students stay on track to graduate from elementary to middle school, and on to high school,” said Cinthia Ibarra, Burton Middle School BGCS Site Director.
“I want to make sure that the middle school students that I work with understand how important homework is to their success, focus on it and get it done. I want them to get into the habit of sitting down and doing their homework or working on something productive during ‘Power Hour’ in our club, something that is going to help them be successful in life.”
During the first hour at the clubs students also get a snack.
The first priority is homework, but if they’ve done that, students can complete missed assignments, work on classwork, read or draw. They can also work on projects they’re currently involved with during the week, such as art or photo club, or they can work on a project for the garden club or free write.
Each program or club is run for 10 weeks.
Soccer, art club, and creative writing are featured on Monday and Wednesday, and Tuesday and Thursday there’s photography and gardening. Those featured “clubs” or programs are what the students wanted to do, so Ibarra, and her two other program specialists built the weekly classes for the BGCS students.
There are BGCS junior staff at Burton Middle School (BMS) who are 8th graders. Each 8th grade student had to apply for the position and be interviewed for the job. They help around the clubs, and add into college readiness, and how to apply for a job, and interviewing skills.
During the present interview, Ibarra said she was still setting up the BMS BCGS Clubs, because it’s still the beginning of the year. She has openings at the clubs for about 25 more students.
Ibarra and her colleagues at the clubs have taken their students on field trips to the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena, to UCLA, in Los Angeles, and UC Santa Barbara. The trip to UCSB, was near the beach. One of the students had never been to the beach before.
“I really like to tie in the field trips to our programs,” Ibarra said, “That is actually a requirement of BGCS. We either have a guest speaker, go on a field trip, or do a community service project for each program. I like to take the kids to as many places as possible. Especially outside the Central Valley. Because some of the students don’t get the chance to leave or experience things beyond Porterville.”
One of the clubs community service projects was helping Food Link by packing boxes of food and pantry staples for low income families.
There are 60 students in the BMS clubs.
After finishing homework, working on art, writing, gardening, playing soccer or other games, students have free game time, which they have to earn, by showing what they’ve completed during the afternoon at the clubs. If they belong to a sports team at school they can also practice for the team, if they’ve completed their school work at the clubs.
Ibarra tries to teach the students about current affairs, and gives examples of what’s happening in the world. For instance, she took a bunch of BGCS girls on a “girls retreat” to Pismo Beach, after they watched a documentary on plastics and how plastics are contaminating the ocean. One of the requirements of the trip was that the girls refuse straws when they went to a restaurant or wherever they stopped for food on the trip. So the girls became aware of how pervasive plastic is in every day life. The girls who participated in the trip were called “Smart Girls.” Smart Girls is a national program for BGC of America. And there are plenty of other programs the BGC of America and BGCS is involved in.
A representative from the Board of the National BGCA, Tamara Mitchell, stopped by the clubs at BMS during the afternoon and said, “It’s a fine organization and the leadership and the staff are outstanding. The programs that are offered at the club are also excellent.”
Thinking about the clubs and the programs offered, Ibarra said, “We want to make sure that the students voice is heard throughout the programs offered.”