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Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County invites community to learn how it helps local kids
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A net is pulled across part of the gymnasium Monday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County so soccer can nbe played on a rainy day. the Boys & Girls Clubs are having a series of open houses starting this coming weekend to allow at closer look at the after school programs the Club offers.

Open houses

When: 3-6 p.m. April 14, April 21 and April 28
Where: Boys & Girls Clubs, 1 Positive Place, Gainesville
More info: 770-532-8102 or www.boysgirlsclubs.com

If you think the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County offer young people a safe place to hang out after school, you know one small aspect of what the clubs do.

The clubs also provide an array of programs, including lessons in ballet, piano, Kung Fu, finances and kayaking, in addition to tutoring — all with the goal of helping kids graduate from high school.

“We provide after school services to kids that really need it the most,” said Steve Mickens, chief professional officer of the Hall County clubs. “If you look at our population and demographics in our club, 87 percent of the kids are from economically disadvantaged circumstances. So what we try to do, to break that cycle, is improve the graduation rate here in Hall County.”

The average graduation rate varies from 69-73 percent, including nontraditional schools, which means many students aren’t graduating, and the clubs want to help those students.

To help inform the community about the clubs, it is hosting a series of open houses this month, beginning at 3 p.m. April 14 at 1 Positive Place in Gainesville.

The clubs focus on three major aspects of childhood well-being, according to Mickens: academics, character and a healthy lifestyle.

The clubs include a main youth facility and a teen center with a game room in the middle of the main facility.

“This is where we run Triple Play and we also have enrichment group in here and piano,” said 10-year-old clubs member Jonlyn Forest. “During Triple Play we play games like pool, ping pong, air hockey and shuffle board, and we play the PlayStation and the Xbox.”

Surrounding the central game room are classrooms for academic enrichment programs, including a gymnasium, art room, a library for book clubs, mystery club and drama, a technology center for photography classes and online enrichment lessons and a multipurpose room for chorus and tutoring. The center also boasts a boxing room.

Putman and Forest said they enjoy all the programs they participate in at the clubs. Forest’s favorite program is technology, and Putman’s favorite is Pink Diamonds, a supportive group for young girls.

“They have a teacher come over, Mr. Joe, who teaches them boxing and what to do and not to do,” 10-year-old clubs member Terrion Putman said.

The facility has numerous outdoor fields and playgrounds, used in partnership with the Gainesville school system and Gainesville Parks and Recreation. This includes a “Falcons Fitness Zone,” a playground with equipment geared toward physical fitness, including monkey bars, balance bars and more.

The Teen Center’s multipurpose room is used primarily for academics. There they do Power Hour, a solid hour of study hall when students can get help with homework or spend time reading.

Mickens said all of the clubs’ more than 25 programs lend themselves to a well-rounded child more likely to graduate high school and contribute to society. The clubs’ graduation rate for seniors last year was 100 percent.

“Research shows students in quality enrichment activities along with being involved in some kind of sport, those kids do better in school,” Mickens said. “So those are components we try to focus on.”

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