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Crafting a mural beautifies a public space as well as the artist's internal space.

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Generation Wild

Exploration is an Expectation at the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County

Wade in a stream. Bury a time capsule. Watch a sunrise. On the official 100 Things to Do Before You Turn 12 list, young people are invited to explore life’s simpler pleasures. All too often, these pleasures are sidelined and ignored in today’s fast-paced, screen-based culture. Luckily, the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County (AKA The Club) is adept at spurring kids to go explore.

“The big challenge these days is how do you balance ‘you need to go outside and do things’ with ‘you’re addicted to technology and screen time’? Both have pluses and minuses. How are we going to get them more outside?” ponders The Club’s Executive Director, Vaughn Morris. The Club tempts youngsters outdoors by incorporating devices and technology into the activity. Maybe they host a digital scavenger hunt that challenges kids to photograph particular sites. Or, maybe they bring charging stations to a scenic outdoor space.

“We’re meeting them where they’re at and challenging them to explore,” Morris says. He explains that anytime devices are incorporated into an activity, they are used to provoke new interests and passions that can then be further explored without the screen. What kids discover on the device immediately translates into time spent in the real world doing something new and enriching.

Not to be confused with an after-school daycare, the Club is a center for excellence that develops 4th through 12th graders into future leaders. Ultimately, The Club does not exist to warehouse and “helicopter” young people. Rather, it provides a safe, welcoming, engaging space where children and teens can develop their best selves.

The BGC mission reaches all the way back to the original club which began in 1860. Three women in Connecticut resolved to get young boys off the streets. They aimed to build character and expand personal expectations and goals. Their model rippled across the nation, becoming the Boys Club of America in 1931. Six decades later, the organization became the Boys & Girls Club, a now-global entity.

Leadership skills. Healthy lifestyles. Academic passion. Every program The Club offers incorporates one or all of these core objectives.

Kathrene Frautschy, Director of Development, calls it, “Fun with a purpose.”

“It’s high-quality, comprehensive, accessible out-of-school experiences, programs, and activities,” Morris adds.

Importantly, the world class opportunities The Club offers could cost as much as $1,250 per month per child if offered by any other agency or company. However, Morris estimates that the aggregate monthly cost per month for a child who comes every day is closer to $20! Affordability and accessibility go hand-in-hand as far as Morris is concerned. Transportation also factors into accessibility in this rural region.

To reach as many of the county’s 8,000-10,000 kids as possible, The Club has bolstered partnerships with the region’s many school districts. Kids can now find a BGC mini-site at every 9-R school, plus Bayfield. The Club also piloted a new summer program for Mancos Schools last year that is repeating this summer. And, if that were not enough, BGC is in talks with schools in and near Pagosa Springs, as well as in Archuleta County.

No matter where a child intersects with The Club, he or she will be enticed to explore. Thanks to collaborations with a host of local businesses and other nonprofits, club members go rafting, learn fly fishing, or learn about watersheds while on a hike. They discover dancing, music production, and careers in the music industry. They work with AI programs and virtual reality headsets to learn how to deconstruct a car engine or use a welding torch (without the risk of losing a finger). The Club also challenges young people to tick off every item on the 100 Things to Do list.

At The Club, exploration is an expectation, whether it’s the wilderness, new hobbies, or careers. Kids will explore childhood’s simple pleasures and life beyond childhood. They’ll trek landscapes, both external and internal. In so doing, maybe kids become members of something larger than a club and join the ranks of a new generation—one that goes wild for life’s diverse experiences. Generation Wild.

Encapsulating The Club’s attitudes, Morris affirms, “There’s zero substitute for being someplace with someone else and learning how to be human.”

Imitate a bird call. Build a fort. Find the Big Dipper. Go on a picnic. Run through a sprinkler. Perhaps the 101st item on the official list ought to be “join a Boys and Girls Club.”

"We’re meeting them where they’re at and challenging them to explore."

...kids become members of something larger than a club...

  • Instead of touching screens, BGC kids get in touch with the real world.
  • Kids explore cooking for fun and cooking as a career.
  • Big fun translates directly into big growth at The Club.
  • Life's simple pleasures are never sidelined at The Club.
  • By diving into new hobbies, young people discover new insights into themselves.
  • Why play a video game when you can build a real guitar?
  • Crafting a mural beautifies a public space as well as the artist's internal space.
  • The Boys and Girls Club boasts a support staff trained to deliver excellence in youth development.
  • Kids explore beyond their comfort zonesss.