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Supporting Sonoma students after the school day ends

By By David Pier, CEO, BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SONOMA VALLEY

Dave Pier

Dave Pier

Highlighted by last week’s editorial by David Bolling, our schools are facing significant challenges with meeting the needs of our English-language learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

The work of Louann Carlomagno and her capable team, as well as Laura Zimmerman and the education foundation’s effort to drive the funding needs for schools, are addressing the daunting task of helping Sonoma Valley’s students become more proficient academically, and ultimately prepared for success beyond high school.

Also evident is that the schools alone, cannot address all of the needs that exist in the lives of their students and their families. It requires a community effort, one that many organizations and individuals partake in, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley continues to serve as an integral part of this equation.

It is not just the fact that we serve 2,000-plus Sonoma youth, or that 500-plus come to the club every day after-school. It is the lifelong impact we strive to provide for them and their families in the critical after school hours. A partnership with the school district, and a priority outcome of academic success for our members, helps the club provide what is needed most: a safe, caring place for kids to be after school, providing the academic support necessary to help increase their educational success. All of this results from our caring and dedicated team; adults who serve as role models and inspiration to our members.

It is obvious that we all have much work to do. Both students of poverty and English-language learners face significantly greater challenges as they work toward becoming proficient in “academic” English. These students need additional learning time and the club is able to provide that time.

If club programs such as Reading Buddies, aimed at our second- and third-graders can continue to have the impact we seek, then we are part of the solution to these challenges. Our Khan Academy program geared toward math achievement (and endorsed by the Gates Foundation) is another example of the club’s innovative work to help our youth succeed.

Many readers are familiar with our expanding Teen Services and the success of the College Bound program that has now helped 85 seniors graduate with a plan for continuing their education. The progress of the program is partially measured by College Bound alums successfully staying on track to graduate from college at a rate of 92 percent … well above the national, state and local averages.

Our Career Launch program is underway and compliments College Bound, providing additional, and much needed, guidance for teens to achieve direction and success. All of these are aligned with the district’s effort to turn the tide.

The goals related to academic success for our members are rooted in the evidence that their experience at the club makes a difference in their lives. With our youngest members, our aim to help them stay engaged with their education. As simple as it sounds, getting homework help everyday at the club can play a big part in that. Think about how third-graders feel when they skip to class with their completed homework, as opposed to dreading what their teacher will ask them when they’ve not finished their assignment.

Recent population data predictions indicate only a very modest increase in the number of Sonoma Valley youth however; it also predicts that within that contingent there will be more with greater needs than ever before.

Clearly, there is work to be done. Our beautiful community has a responsibility toward this effort, and the Boys & Girls Club plays a lead role in that. Thank you for making our services possible, and in turn making Sonoma a better place.

To find out how you can get involved check out our website at bgcsonoma.org.