A warm welcome from Assistant Clubhouse Director, Jontonette Clark (Star), meets everyone who enters the Sunnydale Clubhouse. This friendly greeting is a true reflection of the overall energy of the Club. Community is an essential aspect of life here. Staff, youth, and families are closely connected to the neighborhood and the Club plays an important role in bringing everyone together.
Club staff are well trained and connected in the neighborhood. They build positive relationships with youth, mentoring them through the joys and challenges that many face in the community and at school. “Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco gives me the opportunity to be a strong and effective leader for everyone in the community that the Clubhouse serves,” says Clubhouse Director, Matt Henry. “That brings our work to a whole new level."
Sunnydale Clubhouse offers a wide variety of programming. As with all Clubs, academic and socioemotional support are cornerstones of the curriculum. The approach aligns with schools and highly values education, but it is also very different. Our Clubhouses expose kids to a wealth of experiences they don’t get at school – from strong art programs and community service projects, to job readiness programs and employment opportunities, peer leadership, outdoor experiences, and more. These experiences facilitate and encourage new and important discoveries.
This fall, members at Sunnydale are keeping busy in the garden. All youth take turns watering, spreading compost, and maintaining various plants and flowers. They also harvested their own tomatoes and strawberries. In addition to gardening, the peaceful outdoor space is also used as an alternative location for kids to read independently and work on building literacy skill building with their peers.
Staff at Sunnydale lead a truly integrated approach to learning. Last month, Elementary School members celebrated Latinx Heritage Month. They made agua frescas from Mexico and Central America and also learned the Spanish words for the names of the fruit used. To reinforce math lessons, (tally marks and graphs), kids were asked to poll their peers about which juice they preferred.
STEAM enrichment activities are also popular. Recently, members created carbon snakes by combining and burning sugar and baking soda. They also created their own geyser eruptions and built lava lamps using vegetable oil, water, and Alka Seltzer. Middle School youth were challenged to make a cell phone stand using only popsicle sticks and glue!
One of the newest additions to the Club is the Teen Advocacy Group. Teens meet once a week and develop the skills and knowledge to be leaders in their community. Stay tuned for more updates on teen advocacy at Sunnydale in the months ahead!
Beyond innovative programming, the Sunnydale Clubhouse offers socioemotional support to members, especially during times of change, such as supporting the move between Middle and High school. Instrumental to supporting the wellness of youth, is the Club’s Behavioral Health Specialist, Patty Cartagena. Through wellness activities, regular mental health check-ins, and individual therapy, Patty is able to make deep connections with Club youth. She also leads behavioral health training for all staff, building a comprehensive support system which allows youth to be served in the most effective way possible.
Socioemotional wellness permeates all aspects of Club culture. This month, teens have been focusing on strengthening relationships. Their bond continues to grow whether they are on field trips or spending time relaxing in the teen center. Star comments, “We have been so impressed by how well our teens are communicating. They are working very closely together and really getting along.”
Special events and field trips are also a big part of Club life. In October, the youth had the opportunity to participate in a surfing lesson field trip with MeWater Foundation. They had a great time swimming and surfing with friends!
Halloween provided more opportunities for fun. Members were able to create glow-in-the-dark slime. They also had the opportunity to get their face painted with the help of community partners. Members also came together with the whole community to participate in a flash mob tribute to 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson.
This thriving Club offers so much and is always evolving to meet the needs of the youth it serves. It is clear that Sunnydale staff members live BGCSF’s commitment to meeting kids right where they are and making every child feel heard, understood, valued, and loved. Members regard the Club as “their” place because our programs and activities happen in a safe and familiar place that values and celebrates youth.
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.