Most people have heard of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, but you might not know some of its most famous alumni. BGCA, which is 150 years old and serves more than 4.3 million children across 4,300-plus clubs in the U.S., boasts Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Evander Holyfield, Nick Cannon, Queen Latifah, Victor Cruz, Michael Phelps, and more as former club kids.
One former club kid is taking the court to raise money for an organization that shaped who he is: Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq grew up as part of the club in Newark, New Jersey, and said, "For me, the Boys & Girls Club was always a safe, supportive place for me to not only play basketball but gain life-skills while growing up…At the Club, I learned to become a team player and a leader. Because the Club had such a major impact on my life, I feel like I should return what was given to me. The Club saved my life." Shaq is inviting one lucky winner shoot hoops and share a slice at the Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta as part of a sweepstakes that benefits the BGCA.
But Shaquille O’Neal is one of the millions of children who learned to thrive regardless of circumstances with the BGCA.
Boys & Girls Clubs provide a safe haven for more than 4 million youth, giving them an opportunity to discover their great futures. They provide a world-class Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters their doors. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native lands throughout the country, and serve military families in BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide. The local clubs offer a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Club programs promote academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.
Every day, 11.3 million kids (1 out of 4) leave school with no place to go. And every summer, 43 million kids lack access to summer learning programs. This means that millions of our nation’s youth risk being unsupervised, unguided and unsafe. However, research shows that what happens during the out-of-school time can have a significant impact on reversing the negative trends facing youth, including dropout rates, obesity and violence. And that’s what Boys & Girls Clubs are all about—providing youth with a safe, constructive, supportive environment when they are not at home or at school, where they can have fun with peers and be guided by trained youth development professionals.
With their host of tested, proven and nationally recognized programs in core program areas that closely align with the developmental needs of all young people, kids ages 8-18 learn lifelong tools to manage their health, finances, relationships, and the general challenges of growing up. Each local club works from a combination of national programs and local ones that are tailored to the needs of the kids in their specific neighborhood.
For more than 150 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have changed and saved young lives during the out-of-school time. Club kids have better outcomes. Teens who stay involved in a Club are more likely than their peers to have healthy habits, including being physically active and abstaining from risky behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking and using marijuana. Club kids are also more likely to graduate high school. With homework help, tutoring, educational enrichment and college preparation programs designed to support young people’s academic achievement, club kids are able to make a plan for the future. In fact, Club members in the high school graduating class of 2016 showed much more interest in pursuing STEM careers than their peers nationally. 57% of graduating class Club boys showed an interest in STEM compared to 44% of males overall. 50% of Club girls in the 2016 graduating class expressed the same interest, compared to only 16% of their peers.
Last, Clubs foster good character and citizenship. 74 % of regularly attending Club teens reported volunteering in their community at least one in the past 12 months, with 51% volunteering on a monthly or weekly basis. Club teens are almost twice as likely to volunteer at least monthly as their peers nationally. Throughout more than a century of existence, Boys & Girls Clubs have worked to foster young people’s integrity and good character, their ability to make positive life choices, their belief that they can bring about positive change in their communities, and their compassion and willingness to serve others.
Want to support this incredible national organization? Donate to the BGCA and enter to win a trip to Atlanta for a chance to meet renowned one of the renowned alumni, Shaquille O’Neal and celebrate their great work.