For many metro-area children, the time spent after school has become a unique opportunity to grow, thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County.
The nonprofit organization, which began in 1995, has developed into a wide-reaching service provider for the youths who come through its doors.
And now, with the club bursting at the seams, plans are underway to expand to south Oklahoma City.
Jane Sutter, Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County executive director, discussed the history and importance of the club for Oklahoma children.
Q: Can you describe the beginnings of the Boys and Girls Club here in Oklahoma City?
A: We started in a little community center building in Memorial Park with 30 kids coming after school and during school breaks, and now we're in a wonderful 35,000-square-foot facility.
Q: Who are the children you serve?
A: (The organization) serves about 150 to 375 kids a day. A lot of the kids who come, 90 percent, are on free and reduced lunches, come from low-income homes and don't really have the opportunity that some of the kids have for lessons or programs after school. We try to give them those same opportunities at the club, because all kids learn and grow and try to find out what their talents and abilities are to enjoy life by doing those things.
Q: What kinds of opportunities do you offer?
A: The facility has lots of space for art and music and technology, a fabulous kitchen and dining area, and there's a separate space for the teens to hang out. We have lots of opportunities for different ages to get involved.
We're interested in their academic success. Every day after school when they first arrive, they get a hearty snack, and then they do something that Boys and Girls Clubs call “Power Hour,” which is basically homework assistance. After that, they may do music or art or drama. We teach some of them guitar or keyboard. We have a really nice dance room. We have a fabulous double court gymnasium, so some might be playing basketball or volleyball. We have a karate team. Our karate team actually competes internationally and does really well.
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