Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 12, 2012

Tahlequah B&GC unique among programs

TAHLEQUAH — For her dedicated leadership and commitment to youth, Tahlequah Boys & Girls Club Chief Professional Officer Janice Randall received the 2012 Herman Prescott Award for the Southwest Region of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America recently at an awards luncheon in Denver.

Randall said the goal of the national youth development organization is to increase attendance and participation of club members, and for 16 years, she made that her mission.  

In the beginning, Tahlequah Public Schools helped Randall and the B&GC establish a format so kids could be a part of the club in a location where they feel comfortable and safe. Today, 13 Cherokee County schools share in the effort to ensure every child who walks through the club doors graduates from high school, with a plan for the future.

“[The Boys & Girls Club of America is] going to highlight our organization because of the partnership with our local school system,” said Randall. “That’s really why we’ve been successful. Our superintendents are all about Boys & Girls Club, and everyone in this community knows about Boys & Girls Club. They know what it does and have helped in some small way. It’s not just one thing, but the partnership with the schools. We did it in a non-traditional way, and now other people are following our lead.”

Because she was a regional winner of the Prescott Award, Randall became a finalist for the National Herman S. Prescott Award, to be presented at the 107th Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference next May.

Most B&CGs try to make the organization work from a location apart from a school campus. When the club opened its doors in Tahlequah, Randall approached TPS with a request to use district facilities to supervise and serve students before and after school.

“We did not have a downtown building at that time, and so we did a needs assessment. We already had a great relationship with Tahlequah Public Schools, so I went to them and said, ‘Could we use your buildings?’” said Randall. “They said yeah, because they’re already paid for by the taxpayers.”

Most clubs never did that.  

“We were one of the first, and that is why they’re giving us so much credit right now,” Randall said. “Not only do we use the school, but they provide the busing home for the students. They let us use the gym, the library, and the classrooms. Even now, other clubs are trying to get into schools, but they’ll just give them one room or the gym, and all the kids are thrown in there together.”

The goal of attendance and participation is two to three days, but the Cherokee County clubs have members who come five days a week, Randall said.

“Our kids are very consistent. They stay three days a week easily, and a lot of them stay five days a week,” she said. “But again, that’s because we’re there where they already feel comfortable, and the parents don’t have to take off work.”

The B&GC programs are accredited, and help kids with their homework, provide a nutritious snack, and offer physical activities. The parents pick them up or they can ride the bus home.

“And then nights and weekends, of course, we do all the sports programs,” Randall said. “We have youth football, the USA swim team, youth wrestling, youth basketball and youth baseball.”

The TPS clubs are now full and cannot accept any more members due to the limited number of supervisors and budget constraints. That’s never happened  until just recently, Randall said.

“Tahlequah Public Schools lost its 21st Century grant, which was $200,000 a year, and then they lost an Indian demonstration grant that was $300,000. A lot of that money was for the before- and after-school programs,” she said. “So that’s why we had to limit enrollment.”

No school got a 21st Century grant this year.

“We tried. Money’s tight,” Randall said. “We’ve always taken everyone who walks in the door. This was the very first year we’ve had to limit enrollment. It was hard for us to do, because we want to serve every child who wants to be there. We don’t want them to go home alone. We don’t want them to go where they’re unsupervised.”

The club will continue to hold fundraisers to help boost funds, but members have gathered 500 signatures to present to the Tahlequah City Council to ask for a sales tax question on the next voting ballot.

A quarter-penny tax to construct and run the new county detention center went off the books June 30, which dropped sales tax within the city limits to 8-3/4 cents on the dollar. That amount includes city, county and state taxes.

With the TPS clubs full, the B&GC board of directors will decide next week whether to present the signatures to the city, said Randall.  In the meantime, the club will look to raise money through its usual avenues.

“We always have a couple [of fundraisers] a year, and we always take donations. Even when we had our golf tournament and our chili dinners - in Tahlequah, if you make $5,000, that’s a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket to what we need,” she said. “We just don’t want to limit our enrollment. People have been very understanding, and people are coming in with ideas. We’re looking for other grants and foundations to [help in any way they can].”


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