My first experience with the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland was spending time volunteering at a few different BGCC sites. I enjoyed playing games, working on homework, doing crafts, playing sports in the gym, and having conversations on so many different topics with kids of all ages. Once I joined the Bridge Board it was only natural that when it came time to pick a committee to join that I would select both the Volunteer Committee and College Guidance. Although I enjoy absolutely every volunteer event I attend (well, anything I do with BGCC club members), I can say that nothing has been more meaningful than my work with the Bridge Board’s College Guidance Committee.
The College Guidance Committee is a group of Bridge Board members who work closely with high school club members who apply to the College Guidance Program. Once selected to participate in the program, teens are partnered with a Bridge Board member for mentoring and attend workshops and activities focused on college preparation and success. Club members learn about SAT/ACT prep, organizational skills, how to navigate the college financial aid process, the college application process, assistance with college essays and personal statements, background on different types of college experiences (community colleges, state schools, private schools, large schools, small schools, etc), and even just some fun – whirly ball, escape room challenge, ice cream outings, plus 1-on-1 mentoring sessions.
While it was great to meet with a small group of club members on a regular basis, the time I have spent getting to know the two BGCC members I was partnered with who are now in college has been beyond rewarding. It has been both wonderful and challenging to see them grow from their junior year to now about to finish their first semester of college. I have enjoyed learning about both their challenges and successes in the classroom, eating many meals together, learning about life outside of the classroom, discussing job opportunities and potential career paths, and answering questions as needed along their college application process.
It has been through a college visit to the eventual school they both chose to attend, receiving pictures from prom and graduation, questions about finalizing financial aid, and updates about how semester one is going that I have felt blessed to be a part of these individuals lives. I’ve seen the impact and opportunities they both have been given through their involvement at their club after school and in the summer. I’ve seen how they’ve grown from other mentoring opportunities, summer jobs, and leadership challenges at the clubs; and I can’t wait to see the many opportunities that continue to unfold for them on their college journey.
My experience on College Guidance has shown me what is unique about the Bridge Board and BGCC. Yes, there are fundraising events, but the experiences members have from one time volunteer events (pumpkin decorating, back to school picnics, holiday parties, etc) is what makes the experience different from a typical board. I hope that one or two of the college tips I’ve offered has been beneficial to the two club members I’ve been working with through College Guidance, but more importantly I hope they know how much they have taught me. They have blest me with laughter, been examples of resilience, dedication, and strong work ethic, tested and taught me patience, and made me so proud.