Among 4,800 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield received a National Honor Award for Best Overall Education Program and a National Merit Award for Program Excellence in the core area of Health and Wellness at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Virtual National Conference. The organization received a $5,000 award and a $2,500 award from MetLife Foundation, sponsor of the annual recognition program, which honors local clubs for innovative, effective programming leading youth to great futures. Hundreds of entries were submitted in the five core program areas: Leadership & Service; Education; Health & Wellness; the Arts; and Sports & Recreation.

The National Honor Award for Best Overall Education Program recognizes clubs that develop education programs which complement and reinforce what youth learn during the school day by providing opportunities to practice skills for academic and post-secondary success. These programs allow youth to practice, plan and prepare for their futures. BGCR was specifically recognized for its ongoing efforts to develop and implement education programs that are rooted in social-emotional development practices, enable all youth to be effective, engaged, and adaptive learners who are on track to a great future, and create experiences that invite all youth to fall in love with learning, a news release said.

“We have worked really hard over the past decade to ensure that our programs are inclusive of all types of learners,” said Kristin Goncalves, associate executive director at the club. “We view our programs as an extension of the school day, particularly our after-school program. As an informal learning space, the Club has a unique ability to use a ‘hands-on and minds-on’ approach to learning and enrichment, which provides our Club members with the opportunity to discover and pursue passions that connect to future experiences. We truly value ourselves as partners of the Ridgefield Public School System, and work side-by-side with school administration, support professionals, teachers, and parents to help our Club members succeed academically.”

The Merit Award for Program Excellence in Health & Wellness recognizes programs that focus on building the physical, social and emotional wellness of youth. These programs provide opportunities for youth to practice skills for building healthy relationships, regulating emotions, decision-making and solving problems. The Ridgefield club was recognized for its Positive Sprouts Gardening and SMART Cooking programs, which teach club members valuable life skills, like sustainability and self-reliance through food preparation and cooking, garden preparation and maintenance, food safety, the importance of feeding your body with nutritious and delicious food, the release said.

These programs aid members in discovering their self-worth, being confident in that discovery, and honoring who they are, it said. “In a world of technology, it is so important to connect children and teens to the beauty and benefits of living simply, along with providing them with all of the resources necessary to empower their young minds and allow them to realize their full potential,” said Jess Podrazky, senior program director at the club.

The Honor and Merit Awards for Program Excellence are Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) most coveted and prestigious program awards, the release said. These awards recognize local clubs from throughout the movement for their achievements in outstanding local program development. Award-winning programs are fun, demonstrate imagination and are linked to observable youth development outcomes that lead youth to great futures at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, the release said. With the addition of these two awards, the Ridgefield club has now been recognized a total of seven times in the past six years. Previously, the club was the recipient of the National Honor Award for Best Overall Program in 2015, the National Merit Award for Character and Leadership Development in 2016, the National Merit Award for The Arts in 2017, The National Merit Award for Health and Life Skills in 2018, and the National Honor Award for Best Character & Leadership Development Program in 2019.

“We are so honored and proud to be recognized by BGCA,” said Mike Flynn, the club’s chief executive officer. “Our Club continues to grow and improve year after year, and we have been able to impact more young lives as a result. We are fortunate to have one of the most talented youth development staff in the country, and it is with the help of our donors and supporters that allows us to employ the best of the best. These awards really go to the people of Ridgefield. Their belief and support is what allows us to thrive.”

For more information on the club or ways to support the mission, contact Flynn at mflynn@bgcridgefield.org or 203-438-8821, ext. 15.