Supporting the hundreds of kids in the community who depend on Boys & Girls Clubs when schools are closed.
Ask any Boys & Girls Club kid or alumni how they'd describe the Club, and chances are you'll hear it's like a home away from home. But during the past year, Boys & Girls Clubs across King County, Washington, have been more than a second home; they've been a school away from school.
While many people had questions about what would happen with their jobs, sporting events, restaurants and life as we know it when the world shut down a year ago, Meghan Sweet had just one thing on her mind: How to support the hundreds of kids in her community who depend on Boys & Girls Clubs when schools are closed.
"Here in Seattle, schools have been closed for a year. We opened the day after schools shut down and have never closed our doors."
Meghan attended the Club as a child in Southern California and has worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of King County for 21 years, currently serving as the area director for nine Clubs.
One year ago, her Club kids made and hung a banner on the building that said Hope is Not Cancelled. Little did they know how true that statement would be as 24 of their Clubs transformed from after-school and summer program facilities into full-time childcare centers open 11 hours a day. Today, up to 800 kids from 240 different schools across King County come to her local Clubs daily to participate in online school and find a much-needed sense of normalcy.
"The biggest concern we have right now is kids' mental health. The level of trauma these kids are experiencing is greater than anything I've seen in two decades with Boys & Girls Clubs. We're serving many kids who are experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and difficult family situations. We have 214 kids with known learning or behavioral challenges. Parents are at their wit's end. We're loving the kids through this time and doing everything we can to make their lives as normal as possible."
Clubs are providing such a stable environment for kids that school and the Club have become synonymous, especially among their youngest learners.
"Conor Ike is the Club program director working with our kindergarten students to assist them with their work," Meghan explained. "I was recently helping one of our 6-year-olds connect to his school learning site and needed to know his teacher's name to log in. When I asked, he told me, 'My teacher is Conor.' I explained that Conor worked at the Club and I needed to know his teacher's name from school. He couldn't make the connection that the person at the Club who has been reading to him and helping him with his work every day was not his teacher."