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Boys and Girls Club of Garfield proves you can save teens, build leaders

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

PAUL J. CASEY: At a time when teens commit more than 20 percent of violent crimes in the U.S., and 10 percent of those aged 12 to 17 use illegal drugs, the Boys & Girls Club of Garfield is showing that it’s possible to help at-risk youngsters learn about good character and citizenship. I should know.

I’m Chief Executive Officer of the organization, which gives our kids the building blocks to help them grow into effective community leaders.

By creating partnerships with schools, community leaders and parents, and by hiring caring staff, the Boys & Girls Club creates a network and culture in which everyone embraces the importance of building character:

• Our Youth of the Year program recognizes service to Club and community, academic performance and contributions to family life.

• Leadership and service groups like Torch Clubs (for youth ages 11-13) and Keystone Clubs (for 14-18 year-olds) engage young people to become leaders through service to their Club and community.

• Our SMART Moves (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) program helps youth resist drug use and premature sexual activity through small-group activities that increase participants’ peer support, enhance their life skills, build their resiliency and strengthen their leadership skills.

And these programs work.

In a national Harris survey, 85 percent of Club alumni say that staff members helped them to know right from wrong. A full 77 percent attributed their learning of good leadership skills to Club staff, while 81 percent said they developed a sense of social responsibility that by participating .

Based on those successes, we have opened an additional site in order to expand our capacity and increase opportunities for afterschool assistance and education. Talented professionals are giving their time to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garfield, with some of them serving on our board.

We are proud to say that we are one of the few clubs in New Jersey to receive a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the Department of Education.

Sure, helping kids overcome challenges, make better decisions and develop their leadership skills sounds like a difficult task.

But we believe that all you have to do is lead by example, encourage them to embrace learning, and support local youth organizations.

Are you doing your part?

MORE INFO: OR: 973-478-7662

Paul J. Casey, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Garfield, is also the chairman of the Garden State Professional Association, which recently named him Executive of the Year. Last year, the Boys & Girls Clubs National Professional Association gave him its Professional of the Year award. Casey holds a Master of Science in Human Service Administration degree from Springfield College and is married with two sons.

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