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October 7, 2013

Boys & Girls Club expands programming in Ferndale

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Emma McGee, 10, left, and Diamond Tolbert, 11, play pool Oct. 4 with Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County staff member Karina Niner at the Kulick Community Center in Ferndale. The Boys & Girls Club expanded programming in Ferndale by moving the club from the high school to the Kulick Center.

FERNDALE — The Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County has offered after-school programs in Ferndale since 2005, but because of staff and space restrictions, the programs were held at Ferndale High School and Middle School.

On Monday, however, the Boys & Girls Club expanded the programming in Ferndale after securing a location at the Kulick Community Center. The move will allow the programs to be expanded, but, more importantly, the age range can expand, too.

“We started (in Ferndale) in 2005 at the request of the high school because they had a real need for after-school programming, and we were able to secure a grant and it was a great success for us,” said Brett Tillander, the Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County chief professional officer. “We had success reaching kids 12 and older, but now we will be able to get kids beginning at age 6, and we are really excited for what the (expansion) provides for the parents, grandparents and kids in Ferndale.”

Tillander said the Boys & Girls Club could have a great impact on a youth’s life starting at a young age. Jesse Friedman, who attended the club in Royal Oak, recently met President Barack Obama after being selected as one of the club’s Youth of the Year winners.

While the move to a bigger location’s biggest impact is the age range, the staff will also be able to do more with the youth who attend from after school until 6 p.m. every weekday.

“We are able to provide kids with homework help and individualized tutoring still, but the biggest addition is the utilization of the gym,” Tillander said. “At the high school, there were a number of sports at the middle and high school level, so we didn’t have access to the gym because of practices. Now, we will have the opportunity to focus on fitness and other healthy life skills and be more creative.”

Mayor Dave Coulter said the Boys & Girls Club helps fill a void in budget cuts at the Parks and Recreation Department, offering youth in Ferndale several things to do every day after school.

“The first benefit of the expansion is it will allow us to offer these great services to a greater amount of students, and we get to offer a much greater amount of support and classes,” Coulter said. “The club can offer more than we are able to do through the community alone. Our Recreation Department has taken the biggest hit in our budget, so this partnership allows us to offer these kids what they need and deserve.”

While several years ago, one parent might have been home when kids got out of school, Coulter said the times have changed, and some kids are living in single-parent homes or in homes where both parents work. The Boys & Girls Club, even at just the high school, has helped numerous families in Ferndale avoid day care, baby sitters or just leaving older kids at home by themselves.

“Times have changed, and with a lot of working families, there is a lot of opportunities for kids to develop bad habits after school,” Coulter said. “These programs not only educate and develop children, they give them something productive to do at a time of day when they could be doing much more destructive things.

“Anytime we can give a child an opportunity to succeed in school in an atmosphere they find fun and entertaining, that is far better than three hours in front of a video game machine.”

The Boys & Girls Club was started in 1958. At $25 a year, Tillander said the Boys & Girls Club is an option for almost every family to help their children grow and mature.

“The community comes together for a Boys & Girls Club and there are no hurdles, no character testing; we take all kids,” Tillander said. “It is accessible to any kid, and it provides a safe place for them to go, and we have programs that can alter the trajectory of a kid’s life.

“I hear from alumni that come back and how important a role the Boys & Girls Club played in their lives. We give the kids a good, strong foundatio, and this expansion emphasizes the community stepping forward for the youth.”