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Fantastic Scholastics: Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area to Host Gala
By Eric Heinz
Lucia Vega said before she entered the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area’s College Bound Program she was getting mostly average grades. Today she said she is getting As and Bs at San Clemente High School.
A senior at San Clemente High School, Vega was the 2014-2015 Youth of the Year for San Clemente’s chapter, and a new Youth of the Year and Junior Youth of the year will be announced at the club’s 33rd Annual Great Futures Gala at 6 p.m. on Nov. 21 at Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club.
“You have to be a good example for the other students and the Boys & Girls Club, maintain a healthy lifestyle and just be an overall positive person and leader,” Vega said.
Susan Arias, development director of the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area, said last year was the pilot program for the College Bound program. Teens were matched with “learning coaches” and talked about college and career options.
The goal of the club is to attract more incoming high school freshman as it progresses.
“We go out to the campuses and reach out to students about all our programs,” Arias said. “The plan is to filter in (middle school students), and we’ve been working with counselors at the high school to share information about the program.”
Arias said there are 11 children currently enrolled in the College Bound program.
Students are able to use the facilities at the club’s teen center while working with volunteer tutors. The center now has two staff members who facilitate the center.
Vega said she meets with math tutors twice a week and gets help with homework five days a week and she is also taking Advanced Placement government at school.
“I’m taking classes now that I never thought I would take, and it’s because of College Bound and what the tutors helped me with,” Vega said.
Arias said the program tracks student progress intently and is available to be “that extra support for families.”
Arias said another thing the program aims to do is take students on tours of colleges.
“Next year we’re looking to add 25 students to the program, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to get all of our kids into college,” Arias said. “One of our pillars at the Boys & Girls Club is to have all of our kids graduate high school on time. We want them to be ready for whatever they want to do next.”
Allen Reese, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast area, said he wants to have the program facilitate students who come from families that are unfamiliar with the college application process.
“We’ve come up with an iteration that’s a bit different than what we planned in the past; anyone who expressed interest in the College Bound program was admitted,” Reese said. “What we did this year is added in an academic requirement by modeling it after the Nicholas Academic Center in Santa Ana.”
Reese said if students think they’re not ready for college, they can participate in after school programs that help with personal growth and development. There’s also a sports program that keeps teenagers involved with healthy activities.
“We’ve done workshops in notetaking and managing academic calendars and we’ll conduct things that will really assist young people to understand what it takes to get into college,” Reese said. “
Youth of the Year
The Youth of the Year honor is given to an exemplary student who is community and academically minded.
“Every month we nominate youth who are doing something outstanding and between five and eight kids are nominated,” Arias said. “We see how well they’re doing at school and what they’re doing at the club as well as their community service at the club and in the community,”
Vega also competed regionally in county essay contests in which she shared her experiences of working at the Boys & Girls Club.
Vega helped with mentoring and met with children regularly and gave them a personal connection to the club.
The criteria for being designated Youth of the Year includes academic achievement as well as roles in the community. The Youth of the Year designation does not necessarily need to have a certain GPA but it is taken into consideration.
Vega said she has applied to a variety of colleges, but she has already received acceptance into the Northern Arizona University with scholarship offers. She hopes to major in a field involving biology but said she hasn’t narrowed down a specific field.
“We want to see that a student is participating in our activities, doing well in school and showing a leadership spirit,” Reese said. “These are kids who will go out of their way to be involved with a project or some kind of activity. This is a kid who goes above and beyond.”
Great Futures Gala
The annual gala helps raise funds for operations of the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area. Reese said the biggest expense is his staff as well as overhead and insurance costs—the overall cost to operate annually is about $1 million each year, as state law mandates a certain number of adults must be present to watch over children.
Tickets to the gala are $175, and Boys & Girls Club representatives said they are nearly sold out. For more information on ticket availability, call 949.484.0122 or visit www.begreatsanclemente.org.