Stettler’s Boys and Girls Club has a new look heading into the fall season.
The organization has been rebranded as the BGC.
“We have shifted towards being more inclusive,” said Sara Wengryn, the group’s program director. “We already were inclusive, but I know that Boys and Girls Club of Canada wanted the brand to be reflected more inclusively.
“So now, instead of being Boys and Girls Club of Stettler we are BGC of Stettler.”
Other than the name change, little else has changed, she added. “It’s always been an inclusive place where you come in and you are who you are.
“It’s been 120 years of being the Boys and Girls Club, so we definitely still need to mention that name. It’s not that it doesn’t exist anymore – it’s more about moving on and including everyone else,” she said.
“We had an excellent summer – there was tonnes and tonnes of kids and youth here. COVID really didn’t affect us in the summer, and now we are moving towards all of our fall programming,” she said, adding that depending on levels of COVID locally, they are prepared to go ‘virtual’ if need be as well.
“But we want to be in-person, and the kids really need that interaction,” she explained.
“Also, families need to continue working and knowing that their kids are safe after school. And the kids need to see their friends,” she added.
“On the BGC side specifically, we also really focus on those after-school programs,” she said. “And then depending on some of the grants that we hope to get later in the school year, we sometimes will partner with other organizations.”
Currently, they are focusing on after-school for which they offer four different teen programs including the Torch and Keystone groups.
“Their focus is really on leadership, volunteerism, and developing a sense of community through that volunteerism.
“Both of those programs are nationally recognized, too.”
Beyond those groups, and depending on the child’s age, there are plenty of other avenues to explore.
“We also offer a teen drop-in program – we used to run that all the time. But during COVID, there weren’t a lot of kids coming to it because the consistency of holding it wasn’t happening,” she explained.
“So we are hoping that we can revitalize that program,” she said.
“The kids would be able to have a safe space to hang out, and we will continue to have them doing some cooking and art projects – things like that.
“We are also running our Lead-up Program which is really focused on youth leadership. They pick and commit to a volunteer role. They may, for example, help out with one program after school for three months or they might say they may want to come on Mondays. Really, they pick what they would like to volunteer in,” she said, adding that while it can be a community activity, it really does start in the organization’s after-school program.
“They will volunteer in that, and it’s a really good match for our Big Brothers Big Sisters program, too.
“It’s an opportunity to do some mentoring in more of a group setting at the youth centre.”
Some of the programs geared to the younger kids include the Kid Food Nation program, which is about learning to cook.
“I would say that’s pretty much the most popular program because kids love to eat, and our staff lets them get messy,” she added with a laugh.
“We also have an Art Attack program which is really all about art exploration through different mediums – things like that. Melanie Koch leads that and it’s always neat to see what projects she has coming up.
“We also have a discovery lab program that we are running, which is messy, explosive and has ‘techie’ kinds of experiments. It explores the mechanical side of building, and engineering with science-based themes.
“Another program that is a bit new is the Bounce Back League. It’s a physical activity program but the (primary) purpose isn’t necessarily physical activity.”
One of the key things about it is helping kids manage their stress levels through competition, through teamwork, through committing to something and through learning that practice does indeed make perfect.
“It also talks a bit about how we manage our own trauma, and things that may have happened in our past,” she said. “It’s very important for when you are trying to heal and grow. So it all relates physical activity to other routes of grown in our own lives.”
And of course, there is the drop-in program that happens Mondays and Fridays.
“That’s really a good starter program for kids who don’t know much about the Youth Centre,” she said. “It’s a good place to try out our facility, see what’s happening, make some friends – all with our staff supervising them.”
For Wengryn, her position brings a strong sense of joy and fulfillment.
“I think it definitely boils down to the youth, and to seeing their growth,” she said. “I can also see that we are making a difference for a lot of kids.”
For more about BGC of Stettler, check out Heartland Youth Centre on Facebook.