In a recent report by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the 2012 Kids Count Data Book — which publishes national and state-by-state data on key indicators of child well-being — Florida ranked poorly overall at 38th, with domain rankings of 35th in both education and family and community, 38th in health, and a dismal 44th in economic well-being.
Now more than ever, this highlights the need for a major rally in community support and funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.
As the premier holistic youth development organization, we are poised to be the most effective partner to parents, teachers and schools, law enforcement and the community at large in preparing youth to be responsible, caring, productive citizens.
Unfortunately, some of the children who are victims live right here in our communities. In fact, in Okaloosa County, statistics from the Kids Count Data Book are staggering. Although we have one of the strongest and most successful school districts in the state — and our educators should be commended for their accomplishments — the challenges they face are significant. 19.7 percent of children under age 18 in Okaloosa live in poverty while 38.6 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Additionally, 223 teen pregnancies locally result in births to mothers ages 15- 19 with another 310 births to mothers with no high school diploma or equivalent, and the number of youth delinquency cases reported to the Department of Juvenile Justice was 1,134. The only answer to these problems is front-end awareness and pre-emptive action.
Boys & Girls Clubs focuses every activity on three intended outcome areas: academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.
The best part is that it all happens under the banner of a club where membership means a sense of belonging and fun. Boys & Girls Clubs act as cycle-breakers and boast highly meaningful relationships with caring adults for youths in grades kindergarten through 12th-graders.
BGCEC members — young people who need us most — graduate on time at 100 percent, avoid teen pregnancy and crime, and 57 percent say the club saved their life.
We are lucky to have our community’s deep support, but the need never ends for additional involvement and funding. I implore you, as a responsible citizen of this community, to make a special effort to reach out to your local Boys & Girls Club.
Find out all of the wonderful things happening to shape the lives of youth who are your next-door neighbor, your next high school intern, or headed off next fall to play football for your alma mater.
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