Columbia Park Clubhouse is a thriving community in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. The Club exposes members to experiences that compliment their school day – from a strong art program and community service projects, to job readiness programs and employment, peer leadership, sports, and more. These experiences facilitate and encourage new and important discoveries and the wide range of programs and activities reflects the diverse interests of the youth members.
Last month, Clubhouse members received a special visit from San Francisco Mayor, London Breed. The mayor chose to make an announcement proposing changes for how the City manages its services to youth and families from the Clubhouse. Youth were excited to meet the mayor and had the opportunity to experience a press conference first-hand.
The Clubhouse has a strong partnership with neighboring K-8 school, Children’s Day School. Members participate in a farm and gardening program and take part in a variety of related activities including cooking, planting seeds, feeding chickens and sheep, and discovering different kinds of insects. Elementary youth also enjoy Children’s Day School’s library. The tranquility of the library gives Club members a quiet space where they can relax and engage in literacy activities as well as participate in peaceful projects such as origami crafts.
Enrichment through partnerships supplement some core program priorities. Staff remain extremely focused on educational success and social/emotional wellness at this turn of the pandemic. Assistant Clubhouse Director, Sean Hyatt says “As an organization, we at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco knows that our youth will need increased academic and socioemotional support in order to emerge from the pandemic experience strong, resilient, and optimistic. Our Columbia Park Club staff are committed to prioritizing both of these areas.”
Columbia Park’s dedicated Behavioral Health Services Specialist, Teresa Garza, is an integral part of this commitment. Teresa provides individual therapy to Club members as well as supporting all youth through wellness activities and check-ins.
Although the Club is highly focused on academic success and mental health support, staff are also passionate about youth leadership, job readiness, sports and fitness, and the arts. Like all 13 Clubs across San Francisco, programming at Columbia Park focuses on the whole child and is designed to expose members to a range of opportunities.
Columbia Park youth have the opportunity to join athletic leagues like futsal and basketball. The large gym and renovated outdoor playfied offer ample opportunity for members to engage in sports, fitness and play. Middle school members especially enjoy being part of large games of capture the flag.
Throughout the year, youth enjoy special occasions with their Club family. From celebrating holidays to displaying pictures, artwork, and awards, Columbia Park offers members a second home. This connection allows youth to develop positive and meaningful relationships with adults and peers. Over the holiday season, members participated in many themed activities including making gingerbread houses and ornament decorating.
In addition to fun crafts projects, members at Columbia Park are exposed to a strong fine-arts program. This month, the successful Middle School Art Club engaged youth in exploring mixed mediums. Youth used both oil pastels and watercolor paints to learn about colors and their use in art, while also learning how to combine the two for a more outstanding effect.
The depth of programming is exemplified in sophisticated lesson plans spanning all age levels. Recently, Middle School boys participated in a Why Try enrichment program. One of the topics discussed was motivation and how motivation can mirror a roller coaster - and how that up and down reflects the rhythm of normal in life. Through this discussion, the boys began sharing when they felt or feel their motivation declining and some started sharing with others their personal methods of how they overcome low motivation.
Another significant program emphasis focuses on teen members. Staff support teens as they plan for life after high school. They help youth understand and work through the complexities of college or job application processes and provide consistent formal mentorship every week. Teens also engage in fun social activities such as pizza night.
The compelling energy of Columbia Park Clubhouse is palpable to all who enter. Recently, employees from McKinsey & Company volunteered during the company’s Day of Service. It was great to welcome volunteers safely back to the Clubhouse!
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.