As COVID-19 restrictions lift, and more youth return to Clubhouses this summer, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco continues to strictly adhere to City and County COVID-19 health guidelines for youth services. Although the pandemic isn’t over, we remain committed to keeping youth engaged through high quality programming over the summer. This time of year provides an especially welcome break from the pressures of navigating a difficult school year of remote and hybrid learning. In this month’s Club Spotlight, we explore how Mission Clubhouse is bringing some much-needed summer joy to youth, families and staff.
Entering the Mission Clubhouse doors, members are immediately greeted with a palpable sense of cheerful energy. Clubhouse Director, Sophia Rutkin, knows that this time of the year presents a unique opportunity to connect with her community.
“Summer is our happy place. The flexibility allows kids and families to experiment with new activities that they may not have the opportunity to explore during the school year.”
Every day, youth from Kindergarten - 8th grade participate in hands-on activities that advance learning, build health and life skills, and provide social and emotional support. Literacy programming, STEM projects, maker spaces, and arts & crafts are integrated into the summer curriculum. Weeks are themed to keep the programming fresh and youth highly engaged. This summer, themes include Around The World, Outer Space, Superheroes, Under The Sea, and Club Olympics.
Another summer highlight at Mission Clubhouse is playing in the on-site gym and taking field trips to the park. Sophia promotes a play-based philosophy.
“Play provides such a transformative vehicle for youth to develop strong social emotional skills, including conflict resolution, leadership, communication, and inclusivity. Play also gives youth who are not traditionally athletic or comfortable playing sports an opportunity to participate in physical activity and aligns with our commitment to Healthy Lifestyles. Most importantly, Power Play is a unique time of day where youth can practice mindfulness -- when you are playing tag, you're just focused on what is happening in the immediate moment, not on any other part of the day.”
Play is also a key ingredient in building relationships between youth and staff. Sophia encourages her staff to join in and participate in playing games with youth,
“I remind staff that the most powerful time for them to participate in a game is when they are new to it themselves; this way they are showing shy or more reserved youth that it is OK to be new and unfamiliar with how to play and you can have fun learning how to do it!”
All summer programs are led by well-trained, skilled, and caring staff mentors, many of whom are members of the Mission community. The Club provides a safe, supportive, and inclusive place for youth to be (and to belong) over the summer. The Clubhouse has a family feel and many youth consider it a second home.
It is this familial closeness and dedicated commitment of staff that Sophia credits with sustaining the Club community over the past 18 months. Like most of our Clubhouses, Mission Clubhouse moved from an after-school program to functioning as a school-day learning hub during the pandemic. An outcome of this pivot is that staff have become cross-trained across all programmatic areas. Staff that were hired to lead specific content areas now feel comfortable facilitating any program regardless of their specialty.
This cross-training is especially important as we emerge from the pandemic and BGCSF focuses on mitigating learning loss and strengthening the emotional health and wellbeing of youth. This summer, every staff member at all our Clubhouses can teach our literacy curriculum and are trained by our Behavioral Health Services Team to support the social emotional needs of our kids. This allows BGCSF to reach youth in the areas where they need the most support -- throughout summer and beyond.
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.