Students in the Columbia community are more at-risk for attention and academic issues, emotion regulation issues, and peer relation problems compared to other kids in rural Boone County.1 At the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, after-school and summer programming seek to address some of these issues by providing kids and teens with a place that propels them towards academic and personal success.  

We recently interviewed Abigail Anderson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, to talk about the Great Futures Start Here program, its impact on youth, and the Boys and Girls Club’s partnership with United Way.  

Tell us about some of the goals of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. 

One of our goals here at the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia is to serve more youth. We know there is a need in the community for kids to have a safe place, for positive mentorship, and for assistance with self-coping, and after school is a great way to propel academic success but also to deliver that high quality development. Another goal is to serve a high-quality program for all our kids. And the third is to provide accessible and equitable programming for all youth in Columbia.  

What do you hope the kids, tweens, and teens who are part of this program take away from their experience? 

We hope all youth that experience club membership walk away with additional opportunities to succeed in whatever their goals are, whether that’s academic success, whether that’s homework help, or whether that’s looking for their first job. We serve kids ages 6 to 18 so you can imagine a variety of goals within all of those children, but at the end of the day we want all of our kids to feel loved, to feel as though they belong here because they do, and to be presented with additional opportunities to succeed because that’s why they come to the club. 

How are you specifically seeing the impact of these programs today? 

By engaging these teens and tweens we’re actually helping to decrease the amount of teen violence and gang participation that we’re seeing here in the Columbia community. We know teens and tweens that attend club programming are more likely to abstain from things like drugs and alcohol and unsafe or risk-adverse activities because they’re right here at the club receiving positive support and guidance. For example, youth that have an outlet like the Boys and Girls Club are about 40% less likely to engage in drug-related activity.2  

Kids are also learning new skills for self-confidence and managing their stress. They’re learning how to find their voice and set healthy boundaries and build healthy relationships. We know that kids who have outlets to develop these skills are 77% more likely to stand up for what they think is right even if they’re the only one doing so.3  They’re able to practice these things here at the club.   

What does a typical day at the Boys and Girls Club look like? 

A typical day at Boys and Girls Club is when the bell rings kids hop on the bus, or we also have four other locations at schools. They’ll come down the hallway, they’ll check into their local Boys and Girls Club. The first hour of programming is focused on academic success and so they might do a fun activity with Project Learn or work on homework with tutors. They also get a hot meal every day, so then they’ll eat. They’ll get their belly’s full and get ready to learn. Then we have six primary core curriculums that we teach after school, which means they’ll do one of our targeted and high yield activities. After that they’ll take a wiggle break and then they’ll do one more targeted program activity to maximize the output of what they’re able to experience and learn while they’re at the club. Then that’s it. It’s a quick session, so it typically runs from about 3pm to about 6:30pm during the school year. 

What has it been like, for you, partnering with United Way? 

Partnering with United Way is truly a blessing, and it goes beyond just financial assistance. To me, the power of the United Way is really the collective. It’s all of the organizations and businesses in Columbia coming together to meet common goals and with that collaboration there is immense power and momentum. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

The Boys and Girls Club has gone through tremendous transition and change over the last year. We’re excited to work with community partners like United Way and our local business community to reach youth. Making this program more accessible and equitable for the kids that need it most as well as extending really amazing, high quality programming to all of our youth throughout Columbia is definitely a challenge so we greatly appreciate the support from the United Way. 

The Boys and Girls Club of Columbia provides youth in Columbia with the academic and personal resources to achieve their fullest potential, including opportunities for new experiences, establishing a safe environment, and introductions to new career paths. Giving to United Way specifically goes to supporting programs that provide a safe place and resources to Columbia kids and teens. Partnering with us is a commitment to bettering the Columbia community.