Miracles made at B&G Club
It’s no secret that the statistical performance of students in Sonoma Valley schools is cause for concern. Based on testing protocols, our students rank toward the bottom of school districts in the county, a fact that has teachers, district authorities and many parents scratching their heads in confusion and concern.
There is no simple solution to the educational achievement gap, but one answer hiding in plain sight was revealed on a public stage at the Boys & Girls Club last Thursday night. There, a tear-stained audience saw irrefutable evidence of a strategy for dramatically improving the scholastic performance, the social behavior and the lifetime opportunities available to young people in Sonoma Valley.
On that stage were four outstanding students nominated to be Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley. One by one, those kids described the daunting challenges of growing up in broken homes, often with minimal parental guidance and no tradition or opportunity for a college education. One by one, they detailed all the reasons why their lives could be expected to end in failure.
But that hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen, because all four of these improbable candidates are planning for, headed toward or already in college with well-defined ambitions, goals and dreams. All four are infused with pride and a sense of accomplishment that comes from being encouraged, coached, lifted, prodded and loved.
As they told their stories there was barely a dry eye in the audience.
The nominees were Yecenia Vargas, Pio Valenzuela, Raquel Paz and Eric Gonzalez. Vargas got the nod from a panel of five judges, but it was clear all four were truly winners, that they had all crossed a one-way bridge into a successful future.
It’s hard to avoid hyperbole when talking about these kids and the programs that helped shape them. Their success is a product of supportive relationships, incremental achievements, continued guidance and pragmatic programs that together produce a steady series of minor and major miracles.
Hilary Clinton was roundly ridiculed by the far right for popularizing the expression, “It takes a village.”
But over and over again, we discover she was right, it’s true, it does. Without the Boys & Girls Club, the route these kids might have followed would have led over a cliff. But they found the help they needed in a virtual village composed of a remarkably caring, capable, competent, and loving group of mostly young people, many not much older than the kids they serve.
Executive Director Dave Pier has done a remarkable job expanding the reach and the appeal of the club to make it more relevant and attractive to teens, and today the facility offers a vast array of programs to help teens focus their energies and prepare for college and careers.
So, if you want to know one solution to the declining educational performance of Sonoma Valley students, look no further than the Boys & Girls Club.
It does take a village, and there are many ways to participate. To find out how, contact the club, or the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, or the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. They’re all a part of that village.