February 1, 2021–9:24 p.m.
There is no doubt that it has been a tough year for students. The structure, consistency, and social engagement that is so important to young developing minds has been challenged and contorted as our community attempts to safely navigate the current pandemic.
When Rome City Schools made the tough decision to close and quarantine from Thursday, January 28 through Friday, February 5, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia decided to extend hours and services at the two Rome locations (211 East Main and 100 Gadson St.) like their mission says, to those who need them the most.
“Most of our kids are from lower income households,” South Rome Unit Director, Ishmael Woods, explained. “So, I’m glad that even though the schools are shutting down, we’re able to provide for those kids because most of their parents still have to go to work.”
Doors will open at 7:30 a.m., the kids will be served breakfast before beginning their virtual school day, promptly at 7:50 a.m. Woods said that staff is on hand to help the students with their work as they need it. Of course, the students will have breaks from schoolwork throughout the day where they will be able to release some energy and engage in Club activities, like playtime in the gym.
“The kids need this,” Development Director, Sarah Bradfield, said. “To be in a safe environment where they are nurtured, and to be able to do their coursework together and receive one-on-one help or small group help with the staff.”
Woods said that this is the first time the Club has decided to stay open during a school quarantine and one thing is for certain, the day does not go on without strict precautions for the safety of the kids and staff. Every day begins with a temperature scan and sanitized hands, masks are worn by all, hands are washed before meals, and every hour throughout the day, all areas are cleared and sanitized.
Fortunately for the Club, Woods added, staff has not been cut during this trying time, which enables them to keep groups of kids (or pods) smaller. He added that they are even able to have some staff members that are present just to keep things clean and sanitized throughout the day. The Club is CDC compliant, Bradfield, explained, which means that they also function with a smaller ratio of students per staff member, they require face coverings, and the small groups of students rotate together so as not to be exposed to more people than necessary.
The benefits of the Club branch out further than just supervision for the day. The fact that the children and teens are able to maintain any sort of social aspect of their day is entirely priceless. While under the Club roof, kids and teens are consistently exposed to positivity, encouragement, the fostering of healthy habits and academic enrichment, and Club offered programs that include Character and Leadership Development, Life Skills, and the Arts. Youth development programs like PowerHour (homework help) and STEAM Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) encourage and empower members to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Within the colorfully clad walls of the Club, everyone has the chance “To Be Great.” Woods has no doubt that he is exactly where he is meant to be. “I knew that this was where I could make the most impact,” he explained. “So, every day when I wake up, I know that I’m coming in to make an impact on kids that grew up just like me. I just want to be an inspiration to them, that’s why I’m here.”
Executive Director, J.R. Davis added, “Even though this is beyond our regular service hours, the Boys & Girls Clubs has been fortunate to receive the support of this community since 1953, so we are able to help hundreds of children daily whose parents need to work. Finding childcare and helping children with virtual school on a moment’s notice is difficult, but the community knows that the Boys & Girls Clubs will be here to help fill the gaps.”
Normally, the Club is open five days a week for after school care (2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. for youth and 2:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for teens) and during most school breaks (7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.). Staff at the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia are available exactly when their website says, “…when kids have free time and need positive, productive outlets.” While the Clubs are open to all youth and teens, ages 5-18, they will be required to have a membership.
For more information on membership and locations, please call the main number at 706-234-8591 or visit www.bgcnwga.org.