Written by Gary S. Scheer, Coast Guard director of Morale, Well-being and Recreation, and Senior Chief Petty Officer Sarah B. Foster.
As the Coast Guard and the other military services celebrate the resiliency of the military child during the month of April, we’re putting a spotlight on the Coast Guard’s 7-year partnership with national youth organization Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
By helping military kids cope, adjust and progress through the most formative years of their lives, BGCA’s youth programs strive to make happiness and well-being a priority for military families.
“The happiness of our military youth is an important component of the readiness and retention of our active duty Coast Guard members,” said Gary S. Scheer, Coast Guard director of Morale, Well-being and Recreation. “The Coast Guard’s partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America is providing unique and meaningful opportunities for Coast Guard dependents.”
“When children are happy, they become optimists. In building their self-confidence, this mindset helps to contribute to a bright future and to the success of the overall military mission,” added Terrill Wicks, BGCA national vice president for military and outreach services.
The motto of the club is “A Great Future Starts Here,” and sometimes these bright futures find former BGCA children serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Capt. Daniel J. Travers and Cmdr. Robert L. Smith, both former BGCA youth currently serving in the Coast Guard, are inductees in BGCA’s Alumni Hall of Fame this year. They join the ranks of recognizable military leaders, actors, athletes, scientists and influencers such as actor Mark Walberg, Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington.
Now in its seventh year, the Coast Guard-BGCA partnership continues to improve and grow. Since 2010, Coast Guard youth enrollment in traditional BGCAs increased by 63 percent and it is projected to continue its growth in 2013.
Eligible Coast Guard youth can join BGCA’s youth-affiliated programs at Air Station Cape Cod, Air Station Borinquen, Training Center Petaluma and Base Kodiak where approximately 400 children and youth are provided a safe place to spend time after school and during the summer.
For families not living in military installations, BGCA offers enrollment for active duty youth ages 6 to18 in the Mission Youth Outreach Program at clubs in the local community. The Community Services Command pays for registration fees for each Coast Guard active duty dependent enrolled in one of these clubs.
“We’re excited to meet the needs of Coast Guard youths and their families and we’re here to help care for children of those who protect and defend the homeland,” said Wicks. “It’s an honor to serve them because they are so appreciative of the services we provide.”
One recent event highlighted the importance of building personal resiliency. In helping to build military kids’ confidence and develop their leadership skills, six military teens from Air Station Borinquen attended Teen Ambassador training at BGCA’s National Keystone Conference.
“It was a conference that taught teens leadership skills,” said attendee Valerie Rodriguez, Military Youth of the Year nominee. “We participated in different sessions that taught us to find new ways on how to deal well when we are struggling with peer pressure, time management and friendships.”
Other notable BGCA and Coast Guard programs are in the works at units nationwide. Air stations Cape Cod and Borinquen feature events as part of a partnership with the U.S. Tennis Association endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of the “Let’s Move” campaign. In addition, Toy Industry Foundation held an inaugural toy distribution drive to enhance youth programs and to recognize the sacrifices military youth make every day. The first event was held at Base Portsmouth where more than 300 military kids received brand-new toys and another was held at Air Station Cape Cod. This year, events will be held at Base Kodiak, Sector New York, Air Station Cape Cod and training centers Cape May and Petaluma.
Participating in BGCA’s youth enhancement programs creates positive and meaningful experiences for Coast Guard families and guides children to a bright and successful future. While April is a dedicated month to honor the sacrifices and contributions of the military child, the Coast Guard’s year-round partnership with BGCA provides children with a safe environment to grow into successful young adults.