The once-vacant wing of a school building is filled with life and laughter again.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Georgia has opened an eighth location on the William Hubbard Campus of Monroe County Middle School in Forsyth.
After a delay due to Tropical Storm Irma, the new club was up and running Sept. 14. Children ages 6 to 17 can participate in the after-school program, which is open until 7 p.m.
The Monroe club has about 35 members in elementary and middle school, but organizers hope to eventually reach 75 to 100 children. Most of the students are taken to the club by bus after school or walk from nearby campuses, said Joel Tolliver, the unit director.
The city and county each donated $75,000 to start the club, and the Monroe school district provided the space and is paying the utilities, Superintendent Mike Hickman said. The site was previously used for storage, and the cleanup process included painting, repairing the floor and moving materials.
“We’re just excited to be able to utilize our facilities to be able to support this,” Hickman said. “I think it’s a step forward for our community, to be able to host a distinguished program like Boys and Girls Club and the opportunities that it provides for kids.”
The club has six program rooms, including a creative arts studio; a lab for science, technology, engineering, arts and math projects; a computer lab with 20 laptops and a printer; and a recreation room with pingpong, foosball and pool. A teen lounge is under construction. Students do physical activities in the middle school gym.
The rooms are painted in bright colors and set up so they don’t feel like an extension of school, said Kristine Steinmann, vice president of operations and program services for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Georgia.
“When their parents come and pick them up a little early, they’re asking can they stay. The kids are really enjoying it, and parents are satisfied with what we’re doing with the kids. That’s the true mark of success for us,” Tolliver said.
Each day, students unwind in the game room first, hear announcements, do a “power hour” of homework, participate in age-appropriate programs and get a snack as they leave. They have free time on Fridays. Full meals will be provided in the future.
The club focuses on building relationships, Tolliver said. The Monroe club has four staff members and two junior staff members. Volunteers also help students with their homework, Steinmann said.
“We’re trying to build the whole person. It’s not just academics. We’re building them socially and emotionally. We’re building them as good citizens, making sure that they’re healthy,” Tolliver said.
Boys and Girls Clubs teach students about financial literacy, career options, job and interview skills, social skills, entrepreneurship, confidence, character, leadership, community service and avoiding risky behaviors, Steinmann and Tolliver said.
Students learn how to become adults — and productive citizens, Steinmann said. The organization wants to make sure all members graduate on time and know what career path to take.
“Great futures really do start here,” Steinmann said. “We work with not just preparing them for the now. We’re trying to prepare them for the future, so they’re really prepared to be successful in life, to be somebody important, to be somebody who gives back and is engaged in the community.”
Want to join?
Call 478-992-5605 for more information on the new Boys and Girls Club in Forsyth. Register at the club at 500 Highway 83 South. Memberships are $25 per month, plus a $10 yearly membership fee. Teen memberships are $75 for entire year.