Clubs in Visalia, Exeter, Farmersville, Strathmore, and Ivanhoe clubs have reopened; Porterville remains a virtual club
VISALIA – More than ever, children in Tulare County are in need of support with their schoolwork. Since the sudden transition to distance learning, many parents have felt overwhelmed when trying to keep up with this new way of schooling. As a long-standing source of homework assistance, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sequoias (BGCS) has been there for families providing schoolwork assistance and social interaction for children after school, both in-person and online.
As a virtual club, BGCS staff quickly adapted by familiarizing themselves with the virtual platforms their members were using. They learned to incorporate different Zoom features—such as share screen, breakout rooms, white board, etc.—to make their Power Hour (their homework assistance program) sessions as helpful as possible.
When the in-person clubs reopened, they also had to quickly adapt to their members’ new way of schooling. This is especially true for the Visalia Gindick club which has, in response to parents’ needs, extended their hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to permit Visalia members to attend their Zoom classes while at the club. Staff go above and beyond to support their members. They help troubleshoot all technical issues and keep track of each member’s login information and school schedule. Most importantly, they monitor members and keep them focused during their Zoom classes. To date, BGCS’ Visalia, Exeter, Farmersville, Strathmore, and Ivanhoe clubs have reopened to provide the in-person club experience while the Porterville clubs remain virtual.
Leticia Betancourt, area director of Visalia, Exeter, Strathmore, Ivanhoe, Farmersville and Tulare clubs, shows great pride in her team.
“They [her staff] all work as a team with each other and communicate throughout the day regarding all members and any possible changes and improvements needed to continue helping,” Betancourt said. “I am proud of their dedication and adaptability during these times and the growth in their own positions by learning along with members. The staff’s resilience is rubbing off on members by them trying to work hard and even when there are hiccups they continue to keep trying.”
Overall, both virtual and in-person clubs have put a great emphasis on open communication with club parents and school teachers. Parents have shown great appreciation for this as it has been more challenging than ever for them to ensure that their child’s school work is completed and up to par. It makes all the difference to a parent to be kept updated—it can be as simple as being told that their child had a tough day on Zoom and was unable to finish some of their work.
Understandably so, members—particularly the younger ones—tend to get fidgety and lose focus quickly during their Zoom classes. BGCS staff continuously looks for new ways to ensure that members remain focused while on Zoom, and actually retain the concepts being taught. For example, some virtual clubs noticed that their members weren’t grasping concepts as well as they used to—such as spelling and math. Because of this, staff began leading spelling bees and tournament-style math games to engage their members and reinforce what they are being taught in school.
Cinthia Ibarra, area director of the Porterville clubs, explains that 45 minutes to an hour is allocated daily for club members to complete their homework and receive assistance. She encourages club members to speak up when help is needed—the staff is always more than happy to provide support.
“Also, communication is key,” Ibarra said. “If there is something that a parent notices their kid needs help with, such as a particular subject, they should make sure to call their director and let them know.”
Parents interested in registering their child for the local Boys and Girls Clubs can visit bgcsequoias.org/registration and apply online. The cost of membership is $15 per year, with the exception of the Porterville clubs, for which membership fees have been waived.
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sequoias is focused on helping all young people, especially those who need us most, become responsible, caring and productive members of society. Boys and Girls Clubs were established in Tulare County in the 1990s when Exeter and Visalia community leaders responded to the need for a positive place for local youth to spend free time after school. Today, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sequoias serves 1,000 kids per day at 14 clubs throughout Tulare County. Clubs provide a wide span of activities for local youth, varying from STEM to sports. To stay up to date with the clubs, they can follow them on Facebook and Instagram at @BGCSequoias.