At Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF), we firmly believe that opportunities for lifelong success should be within easy reach of every child. Our programs focus on academic success, job readiness with earning potential, healthy lifestyles, and good character and community engagement. We call these four outcomes the pillars of our Success Equation, and it's how we prepare our members to leave the Club at age 18 “ready for life.”
Recently, we saw an example of how our programs help youth achieve their full potential when 12-year Visitacion Valley Clubhouse member Sabrina McFarland was chosen by Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) as the National Youth of the Year. Sabrina’s accomplishment is a huge milestone in the bright future of a young woman. It’s also a testament to how BGCSF’s skilled and caring staff and high-quality programming can help youth navigate the challenges that come their way. BGCSF provides mentorship and resources so that youth don’t just have dreams, they know how to achieve them. Through her commitment to the Club, Sabrina was able to make decisions that helped her plan her future and nurture the well-rounded character she’d need to succeed in life.
In her journey to National Youth of the Year, Sabrina spoke often of the Club staff and programming that influenced her. One Club staff who received regular mention was Tanzania “Tanzy” Robertson, BGCSF’s Citywide Manager of Middle School Services. Like Sabrina, Tanzy grew up as a Club kid, which is where she first got to know the future National Youth of the Year. Eventually, Tanzy began working at the Visitacion Valley Clubhouse as the Middle School Services Director, taking on a mentorship role where she made sure that kids like Sabrina felt heard, valued, loved and understood.
Each young person brings untold potential to BGCSF, and our holistic approach to youth development taps into that potential to teach them important life skills. By opening doors and providing new opportunities, youth build skills that help them grow into successful adults. Such was the case for Sabrina. “She was really shy when I first met her,” Tanzy recalls. “By the time I joined the staff at Visitacion Valley Clubhouse, Sabrina was starting to break out of her shell. I remember we once had a professional chef come in, and that experience really connected with Sabrina. When the program ended, Sabrina was so inspired by the experience that she asked to help organize other cooking activities. That’s when I saw her take initiative and develop her leadership skills.”
By offering youth fresh and exciting programming that appeals to them, the Club fosters a sense of ownership and pride that builds their confidence and sense of belonging, turning their Club into a second home. The activities offered align with youths’ interests and staff are there to nurture and develop potential areas of growth.
Having formed a bond with the Club, the skills developed in one program can help youth in other areas. For Sabrina, dancing was a huge passion. She knew that to succeed in dance she had to work hard, so she disciplined herself and went to practice regularly to get better. Sabrina transferred that dedication into every area of her life. Tanzy saw the difference dance made for Sabrina, saying “the skills she learned through dance are how she holds herself down, studies for tests, sets her schedule, and keeps track of her responsibilities. What Sabrina learned through the dance program has a direct impact on the woman she is today.”
Club staff often fulfill the role of counselor and advisor for youth on matters outside of Club life, connecting members with resources and a network they otherwise may not have. When Sabrina had the opportunity to enroll at one of San Francisco’s most prestigious independent schools, The Hamlin School, she faced a difficult crossroad. Leaving the familiarity of Visitacion Valley to attend school in one of San Francisco’s most affluent neighborhoods would be a difficult transition. Aware of this, Club staff encouraged Sabrina to push beyond her comfort zone and make the decision that would put her on the path of success. Wanda Holland Greene, Principal at The Hamlin School, recalls Sabrina’s first few weeks very well. “It was difficult at first,” Wanda said, “but in time, Sabrina’s curiosity and tenacity took over. She impressed her teachers and quickly made her mark among her peers”, Wanda added. Along the way, Club staff were there to support Sabrina as she adjusted to a new environment.
It takes a community of advocates and supporters to ensure that youth achieve their potential regardless of the hurdles placed in front of them. BGCSF’s holistic approach to youth development centers around ingraining ourselves in the communities we serve, partnering with parents/guardians, schools and other community-based organizations. BGCSF meets kids right where they are every day, year after year, ensuring that youth can rely on the Club to reach their potential.
Youth like Sabrina come to the Club looking for a place to grow and have fun. Through our outstanding staff, first-class facilities, and rich, diverse programming, the Club becomes their home away from home. By forming a strong bond in a youth’s life, BGCSF encourages youth to experience new things, dream bigger, and become caring, responsible and productive citizens of our City.