The Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County is developing a new Trauma-Informed Program for Youth, says CEO Doug Eagles.  “The Program will give kids the tools to help them succeed in life. We have rebuilt the entire program since the pandemic.” The aim is to try and understand the children’s stories, many of whom suffered during the pandemic.  The program will be financed with money that was raised during the birthday celebration for Clarence Clemons on January 13 of this year.

Getting “up to speed” with the indoor rowing program put together by Polli Schildge, a certified indoor rowing coach Credit: Jean Michel
Ready, set, go! Indoor rowing program is all set to start Credit: Jean Michel

Destiny Smith, a former Club member who is now the Club’s Area Director says, “We knew that our kids coming back to us after the pandemic would need extra help; some of them might have experienced abuse, food insecurity or neglect.  So, we wanted to design a space for kids experiencing some sort of trauma or life changing thing.  Maybe there’s a kid who is experiencing big emotions and they can’t focus, maybe they’re acting out. Instead of using disciplinary measures, we use this space where they can talk to one of our trauma specialists.”

“The target programs are the substance of what we do here,” says Smith “We are able to make a real transformation for these kids, whether it’s money matters or career launch.”

We knew that our kids coming back to us after the pandemic would need extra help; some of them might have experienced abuse, food insecurity or neglect. 

Destiny Smith

K is one of the success stories of the target programs. K is only 16 and a student at Asbury Park High School, but she also works at the Club and has recently received an honorary award for Youth Trailblazing from Inspiring Life for Black Excellence.  K is currently studying Early Childhood Development at Brookdale College.  She plans to submit an application to study Child Psychology at Spellman College.

“What keeps the kids coming is their relationship with the staff,” says Smith.  “K is getting workforce readiness, while still being able to participate in the programs that are designed to create an opportunity of equality and to put these kids dreams into reality.” 

Not only is dancing fun, it promotes creativity and exercise Credit: Jean Michel
Taking dancing to even greater heights Credit: Jean Michel

“Another target program,” explains K, “is Smart Girls, a program for girls 8-18. We talk about how to be a lady, hygiene, self-esteem, life skills, setting goals, like the whole wrap around.  Passport is the boy version. We talk about how to carry yourself as a man.  Also, every day for an hour, we help the children with their homework.” 

Smith adds “We have a team of tutors that come in every Tuesday and Thursday to give one-on-one help, that can really advance a child’s educational progress. It’s important, because they may not be getting that at home. Some kids’ parents work two jobs and/or they are busy with other children, so they can come and get that help.”

Arts and crafts program encourages individual creativity Credit: Jean Michel
These artists created decorative St. Patrick’s Day announcements Credit: Jean Michel

The Boys and Girls Club also offers art classes in partnership with Monmouth Arts, a computer lab with touch screen options, education games for the young kids and resource access for teens looking to apply for work or college.  The media center offers the children an opportunity to learn how to make a television program and use camera and lighting equipment, public speaking and more.  The Club has a music and recording studio.  They partner with Lakehouse Music Academy as well, in order to provide opportunities for kids with a passion for music.  Additional facilities at the Asbury Center include a swimming pool, bicycles, rowing machines, and opportunity for tennis lessons.

The Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth has three other locations in Red Bank, Long Branch and Neptune.

Brenda Hamlet is a journalist covering trends in the media and arts. Brenda lives in Asbury Park and teaches writing at Kean University. Her contributions will focus on the state of the Arts in Asbury Park.

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