By: Carlton Eichelberger
Senior Director of Club Services
I have worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) for 24 years. Throughout my journey from High School Services Director at our Tenderloin Clubhouse, to Clubhouse Director at our Excelsior Clubhouse, to currently overseeing Club operations at our 14 locations across the City (and additional roles in between) I have cultivated a deep understanding of the communities we serve and a true appreciation for how our programming supports our members in the best way possible.
Some of my most impactful work has involved overseeing the launch, development, and growth of our School-Based Clubs. This fall, we added our sixth School-Based Club — our Mission Preparatory School Club in the Mission. I am grateful for the opportunity that this expansion in services is providing to reflect on all our School-Based Clubs and how they intersect with our traditional Clubhouses to create an optimal Club experience for all our members.
As the name suggests, School-Based Clubs are our Clubs located on school properties. In most cases, they develop in schools where we already have an established relationship and where we are serving students nearby at one of our eight traditional Clubhouses. In addition to the high-quality afterschool programming found at our traditional locations, School-Based Clubs also provide support to students and teachers during the school day and are embedded in the overall framework of the school community.
At our Clubs at Gateway High School and Middle School in the Fillmore/Western Addition, we provide school day support services in areas such as academic support and mentorship, as well as specialized programming that compliments the school curriculum. Gateway Public School’s Director of Schools and Partnerships, Aaron Watson, shares, “Our collaboration with BGCSF enhances our school day and has proved instrumental to meeting the needs of our students. Some impactful examples are the ‘Be A Star Anti-Bullying Group’ led by BGCSF staff at our middle school and the Keystone Club which teaches incredible leadership skills to our high school students.”
At Malcolm X Academy and George Washington Carver Elementary Schools in Bayview Hunters Point, BGCSF operates in partnership with The San Francisco Beacon Initiative. Our Clubs at these schools provide drop-in support for individual youth who may be experiencing some behavioral challenges in the classroom and need a safe place to reset. We are also responsible for facilitating an engaging morning and lunch recess with organized play and activities, allowing teachers some much needed time to take a break or plan for upcoming lessons.
Carver Elementary School Principal, Makaela Manning reflects, “What I appreciate most about our close relationship with BGCSF and The Beacon Initiative is the alignment in positive community values and consistency that it provides to Carver students. The same routines, procedures, and behavior expectations are extended throughout the day and into their afterschool experience. This allows us all to support our students holistically and in a steady and continuous way.”
Principal Manning goes on to discuss how access to BGCSF’s nearby traditional Clubhouse benefits her students: “Carver kids love going to the Willie Mays Clubhouse to participate in programming in the community garden, baseball field, and newly renovated gym! We see this access as a big advantage of our BGCSF partnership and something that really brings the neighborhood community together.”
This access to our state-of-the-art facilities is true of all of our School-Based Clubs, which are individually anchored to a traditional Clubhouse in their immediate neighborhood. In the Excelsior, members from our San Francisco Community School Club frequently access the gym, playfield, art studio, and recording studio at the Excelsior Clubhouse (just a few steps away). Youth from our Clubs at the Gateway schools use BGCSF’s van transportation to access our Don Fisher Clubhouse or our Columbia Park Clubhouse, where they participate in our Aquatics Program, join sports leagues, sign up for specialized programs in our visual and performing arts spaces, or join our leadership and workforce development programs.
Beyond first-class facilities, all members at our School-Based Clubs have daily access to the significant resources and a range of programming that a BGCSF membership provides.
This is very different from what other nonprofits are able to offer when they open in schools. This October, nearly 100 Gateway School Middle school students participated in a retreat at Camp Mendocino focused on socioemotional development. Camp Director, Sara Richardson explains, “Our Camp programming allows youth to disconnect from technology, gain exposure to new ecology, and explore personal growth.”
The importance of connecting youth to new experiences is echoed by our School-Based Site Director at Malcolm X Academy in Bayview Hunters Point, Sara Reyna: “It is so exciting to see our School-Based Club members access the incredible resources that Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco provides. I believe all kids in the Bayview Hunters Point community deserve the opportunity to connect with high-quality programming and I am proud to work for an organization that is investing so much to help kids in the community succeed.”
Community-building is a natural outcome of the traditional Clubhouses and School-Based Clubs dynamic at all locations. Jennifer Synder serves as the Excelsior Clubhouse Director, while also supervising Mia Vega, the Site Director at San Francisco Community School. Jennifer and Mia explain: “This summer, we intentionally focused on experiences that combined both Club locations in the Excelsior. This allowed our youth to participate in incredible field trips and other enrichment activities regardless of which program they joined. Not only did it bring our youth together, it allowed us to best use our resources and elevate the member experience at both Clubs.
The connection between traditional Clubhouses and School-Based Clubs truly allows BGCSF to support our youth, families, and communities in a comprehensive manner. As a well-established and high-quality afterschool program, we know the significant role our Clubs play in kids’ lives. Now, with our six School-Based Clubs, we are playing an expanded role that has us both on campus and in the community, working during the school day, after school, and all summer long. This is taking our wraparound services to a whole new level. Aaron Watson from Gateway Public Schools, confirms, “Our partnership with BGCSF provides our hard-working families with a safe, consistent, and reliable bridge between school and quality afterschool programming. This provides an incredible support system for our school, our families, and our community.”