Helping build thoughtful human beings who are good active citizens of their community has earned the Ridgefield’s Boys and Girls Club national recognition.
The Ridgefield club has received the 2019 National Honor Award for Character and Leadership Development from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The distinction was announced May 3 in Houston, Texas, at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s 113th national conference.
The club was selected from among more than 4,600 Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide.
Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Michael Flynn made a point of sharing the credit.
“We want that thank the community of Ridgefield for believing in the club and supporting the club,” Flynn said. “It’s really an award for Ridgefield.
He added, “I want to certainly thank the staff that makes it happen — that’s what the Boys and Girls Club is about — the support of our board of directors and, really, the community at large, the fact that they not only believe in the club but support the club, financially and through advocacy, it makes us have the position where we can thrive and grow and do what we do for kids.”
At the national conference each year one overall program is honored and there are also specific awards recognizing local clubs for achievements in five core areas: the arts; sports, fitness and recreation; character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills.
“What that award symbolizes is we were selected as the top Boys and Girls Club in the country in regard to character and leadership development programs,” Flynn said.
“We were specifically selected for our locally developed programs.”
The club works on developing kids character and leadership through programs such as Gem Cub, a leadership and community service program for fifth graders, and also a junior staff program for high school teens with and emphasis on job readiness and volunteerism and a leadership in training or “LIT” program which involves about 100 ninth and tenth graders working at the club’s summer camp.
The program includes education — “classroom time” — but also a lot of “hands-on learning,” according to Flynn.
“The job readiness element is they’re hands on learning role-modeling, helping supervise younger kids,” Flynn said. “They’re supporters to the staff through the summer, and learning valuable skills in role-modeling and mentoring.”
There’s a balance to the club’s approach.
“We keep it fun, but there’s the educational aspects we also tie,” Flynn said.
The leadership in training is more than work.
“That group has their own activities for camaraderie, for team-building, for fun,” he said. “That’s one of our signature programs at the club, which is one of several key programs we’ve run at a high level that got us selected,” he said.
The club also has active character and service elements in their approach to activities such as the Torch Club for middle schoolers and the Keystone Club for high school kids — programs that can be found in clubs across the nation.
“Both of those programs have really been a benchmarks nationally for a long time,” Flynn said.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America honor awards are sponsored by the MetLife Foundation, which is giving the Ridgefield club a $5,000 award for the achievements in character and leadership development that are being recognized nationally.