WESTFIELD, NJ — For 60 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County has served local youth. Daily, they serve approximately 750 young people, ages 5 to 18, at facilities in Union, Elizabeth, Plainfield, Linden, Roselle and Hillside by providing safe havens, academic enrichment and recreational activities through after-school, weekend and summer programs.
The clubs offer programs that focus on education enrichment, physical activity including swimming lessons and water safety, healthy lifestyle choices, social etiquette lessons, career guidance and workforce skills, preparation for higher education, digital arts/technology, teen leadership and drug and alcohol use prevention. They also offer sports leagues for basketball, tee ball and soccer. Their Tidal Wave Swim Team competes on a local and regional level.
Many of the children in their programs have no other supervised place to go when school is out. The most important time of the day for a child is between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to Lisa Sepetjian, director of development and marketing.
“We provide them with structured programing and they’re safe and they can learn,” Sepetjan said.
Russell Triolo, CEO of the clubs for 35 years, estimated that they have served at least 150,000 Union County youth since the organization was founded 60 years ago.
- Increase the number of club members graduating from high school each year.
- Increase the number of club members entering into post high school career paths each year.
- Increase club members’ school engagement level.
- Increase club members’ positive youth development.
To continue its mission, the organization needs monetary donations for a variety of projects, including fixing the aging buildings and infrastructure to accommodate new, specialized computers and create a STEM lab for students. They also welcome donations of items including furniture, iPads and youth sports equipment.
“We would like to introduce a yoga program to our youth, which would require yoga mats and a volunteer instructor,” said Sepetjian. “Yoga has a positive impact on young children who live in violent and challenging environments.”
As summer draws near, club leaders hope that local business owners will support their career exploration program by hiring the club’s teens for summer jobs. The teens will gain experience in the workplace, where they can learn soft skills, such as customer service, answering phones, problem solving and follow up, according to Sepetjian, and these experiences will give them an advantage when they enter the job market.
“Our kids are looking for work. They want a job,” said Triolo. “They want these skills and we have worked with teens through our Career Launch Program, making them interview-ready.”