GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ABC 4)- Research shows that quality afterschool programming can build character, resilience and wellness in today’s youth. Yet some children and teens have nowhere to go between the hours of 3-7 p.m. Many are unsupervised as they navigate the time spent waiting for a parent to return home from work and may have inadequate educational opportunities, lack access to extracurricular activities like sports and the arts, and lack steady adult role models and mentors in their lives.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is working to fill that void and to prepare vulnerable youth to become successful adults. The organization works with over 1,100 kids each year to build life skills and resilience to overcome the many obstacles and barriers that come in their formative years.

“We have a lot of great staff that are here every day and spending time with the kids,” Patrick Placzkowski, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids, said. “It’s a really important part of our model is that these kids see the same faces every day, that our staff develop really positive relationships and they really get to know these kids. They get to know their siblings and their families, so we can be here to support the kids in whatever way they need us to.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids has three locations in Grand Rapids, the Steil Club, Paul I. Phillips Club and the Seidman Club. For just five dollars a year, kids can attend following the school day and stay through the dinner hour. Daily programming focuses on five key areas: the arts, education, health and wellness, sports and recreation, and leadership and service. This could include things like completing homework, doing an art project, playing games in the gym and eating a healthy dinner.

“We believe that all kids should have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and engaging environment,” said Micaela DeVos Richtsmeier and Jordan Richtsmeier, supporters of the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids. “We think the folks at the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids do an exceptional job of that and are a vital program in our community.” 

One of the things that makes the program unique, is the partnership with the Grand Rapids Police Department. Each of the three clubs has a community police officer who visits the site regularly and interacts with the kids.

“We, the Grand Rapids Police Department, have been here for decades, and it’s so important. I’ll tell you, just walking in here, I want to spend every day here, and I want this to be my job,” Chief Eric Winstrom of the Grand Rapids Police Department said. “If you ever have concerns about the future society of America, all you have to do is walk into one of these Boys and Girls Clubs, interact with these kids, and you just get the sense that everything is going to be alright because this is our future and these kids are awesome.”

In addition, the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids works with the police department on programs like Pathways to Policing for teens interested in the law enforcement field, and the Restorative Training program for qualifying youth experiencing short-term or long-term suspensions at school.

The Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids knows that success is within reach of every young person who enters their doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle.

Learn more about the organization and how your children can get involved here.

Sponsored by the DeVos Family Foundation