Invest in Great Massachusetts by Investing in the Future Generations
Recently, Boys & Girls Clubs from across the Commonwealth hit the halls of Beacon Hill to urge legislators to support policies that positively impact kids and ultimately, the state itself. Legislators learned of the value of educational and career support offered by clubs; the vital access to healthy snacks and meals; how clubs give kids a safe, supportive place to go after school and during the summer months; how clubs set kids on the path to great futures.
This year they came with engaging stories of the difference programs like the ones offered by Massachusetts clubs can have on the lives of kids, their families and their communities. But this year they brought something new to further illustrate why access to quality programs are needed now more than ever.
The Outcomes Performance Project (OPP) is a part of a cutting-edge initiative that collects and analyzes demographic survey data allowing clubs to improve programs, demonstrate impact and come up with ways to better serve youth. Clubs see first-hand the positive impact they have on kids every day but these results provide an even more in-depth look at how clubs influence our kids over time, culminating in college acceptance numbers, volunteer rates as well as the relationships they’ve built at the club. OPP provides a statistical backbone to the inspirational stories we hear every day.
For example, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell 2019 Youth of the Year Anthony Villa says, “Being a part of the club has been a life changing experience for me.”
Anthony credits the Club with shaping him into the person he is today, by offering opportunities for him to learn and grow - through programs like Keystone, Diplomas 2 Degrees and FIRST LEGO® League Robotics and much more. But the experience he describes as most impactful was that of a junior staff member, helping out in the gym over the summer.
As a club member for the past seven years, Anthony often relied on the club staff to make him smile when he was having a bad day as “people I could look to for guidance.” As a junior staff, he wanted to provide that same support for the younger members. He recalls learning how to become a person that kids could look up to and talk to, telling them, “I had staff help me when I was younger, and I wanted to do that for someone else.”
Through OPP we have found that youth who attend Massachusetts clubs are out-performing the national and statewide averages when it comes to avoiding drugs and alcohol.
For example, 97% of club members in Massachusetts abstain from binge drinking compared to 84% of teens nationally. 93% of our Club members in Massachusetts abstain from drinking at all, compared to the 69% of teens statewide. 92% of club members in Massachusetts abstain from consuming marijuana compared to 76% of youths in Massachusetts.
Club members in Lowell report similar results to club members across the state.
The numbers go even further than that. Frequent club attenders are 19% more likely to think school will be important later in life, 14% more likely to be excited about science, 10% more likely to eat four or more pieces of fruit per day and 14% more likely to eat three or more vegetables per day.
This is just the beginning. We just finished administering the 2019 survey to club members. We will continue to serve over 175,000 youths in Massachusetts and measure our impact on a yearly basis.
Surveys like this one show the irreplaceable value Boys & Girls Clubs can have on the lives of our kids and teens whether it’s through homework help, mentors, sports teams or the stability they so need. Policymakers must take this data to heart as they consider budgets and how to further invest in the Commonwealth.
The data proves it. Invest in Boys & Girls Clubs. Invest in kids. Invest in the future.
Joe Hungler is executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell.