Over the summer, a school bus route was cancelled impacting transportation for over 40 youth who regularly attend the Don Fisher Clubhouse after school. Club Families immediately took action. Letter writing campaigns and parent advocacy resulted not only in the bus route being reinstated, but in an additional bus stop being added right in front of the Clubhouse itself. Don Fisher Club parent, Won Yung, explains, “It is such a fantastic program here. We wanted to continue being a part of it so parents got together and decided to fight for our kids. Through our advocacy, SFUSD listened and we were successful.”
Advocacy and community empowerment is not new to Don Fisher Clubhouse. Youth voice and self-expression is integral to the culture and programing of the Club. Led by Clubhouse Director, Spencer Tolliver, youth are encouraged to advocate for the things that matter to them. “We emphasize intentionality and responsibility when we talk to our youth. Our goal is to guide them toward the more positive aspects of activism and teach them to be impactful agents for change.”
Tolliver, a seasoned educator and recognized authority in the youth development space, leads by example in instilling this sense of agency. The racial justice movement of 2020 was a pivotal moment for many. For Tolliver and his staff, this meant becoming intentional about bringing anti-racism into Clubhouse programming. “We realized that not only could we be doing more, but we have a responsibility to do more to help youth address these complex issues.”
The impact of this proactive approach in support of youth voice is undeniable. “It’s been incredible to watch,” says Tolliver. “Our kids are taking responsibility for the things they care about, whether it’s racial justice, social justice, or environmental justice. Youth are finding where they fit in and are making a real difference.”
Active youth engagement extends to all aspects of Club programing. Don Fisher Clubhouse is proud to offer a range of innovative programs that fit members' diverse interests. From academic support, STEM enrichment and tinkering to swimming, sports, and the performing arts, the Club provides a space for all kids to thrive and feel supported. The Notes for Notes Music Studio is especially popular and many members are involved in this programing.
All programs are designed to nurture confidence, build community and inspire success. Recently, Middle School youth began a workshop entitled “Ripple Effect.” This program helps youth develop the skills to set goals, build life skills, and start planning future careers. Teens began the school year by organizing their first team-building activity, “I love my neighbor.” This activity allowed new and returning members to get to know each other and feel connected in a shared community.
The supportive and thriving community at Don Fisher Clubhouse has only been strengthened over the past 18 months. Assistant Clubhouse Director, Julia Meier says, "Throughout the pandemic we identified a plethora of ways the Club could offer support, including behavioral health services, tutoring sessions, therapy, and socioemotional wellness-focused activities. This time has made it clear that youth development truly does take a village. Together, we can show our kids, ‘You are not alone, you have a large support network, and we will get through this together.’
BGCSF is currently offering free support and training to Black-serving and Black-led individuals and organizations participating in The Dream Keeper Initiative, a citywide effort launched in 2021 to reinvest $120 million over two years into San Francisco’s diverse Black communities.
April is Arab American Heritage Month and I am excited to both reflect on what this month means to me personally and share how BGCSF and Camp Mendocino engage Arab youth and their families.
We are pleased to highlight a member of our Senior Leadership Team, Erin Gutierrez. Erin has served the BGCSF community for 15 years. Her experience spans multiple roles across the organization and provides a powerful and unique perspective on the holistic impact of BGCSF.