For more than 3,800 at-risk kids in Middle Tennessee, the Boys & Girls Clubs provide a source of support and guidance in a constantly changing world.
Across the country, the Boys & Girls Club is known for its after-school programs, where kids have access to mentors, educational tech resources, and curriculum-based programming designed to achieve four priority outcomes: academic success, healthy lifestyles, good character, and leadership skills.
Current programs at the club’s Shelbyville location, where Keith Churn serves as Unit Director, include a “healthy habits” dietary course, cultural diversity and inclusion training, outdoor fitness and exercise programs, and STEM classes to inspire creative and innovative thinking.
Behind the success of every program at the Boys & Girls Club of Bedford County is a fast, reliable internet connection made possible by Project UNITE. An initiative of United Communications, Project UNITE’s mission is to deliver broadband speeds to every home and business across Middle Tennessee.
“United Communications, because they’re local, we feel more connected to them,” said Keith. “They’re friendly, they’re responsive, and they’ve been terrific to work with.”
While the kids don’t arrive until the afternoon, Keith and his colleagues begin their workdays early in the morning—and typically online.
“We rely on the internet for everything,” Keith explained. “Obviously, for our day-to-day work like communicating with our board, staff members, and our community partners. And that’s all before the kids get here, which is really when we depend on our internet service the most.”
With the help of generous donors, students have access to a fully equipped technology lab with internet-connected computers and tablets.
“When kids first arrive, they have the opportunity to do their homework, which depends on having solid internet service—especially over the past few years when schools went virtual,” said Keith.
Even after the pandemic put a pause on fist bumps and high fives, at-risk youth and their families could count on the Boys and Girls Club to provide a safe, supportive learning environment. As an essential service provider, the club’s high-speed internet service helped keep its doors open through 2020 and beyond.
“I’d say about half of our kids don’t have reliable internet access at home,” Keith explained. “Without places like the Boys & Girls Club, it would’ve been impossible for them to attend virtual classes or participate in remote learning. Even now, most of their homework is online, so they still depend on us for that.”
“We used to base our programs on recreation and social interaction. Now, since digital learning is so ingrained in our schools, it’s become a big part of our program as well. Our world is becoming increasingly dependent on the internet, so it’s important for kids to learn to be digitally literate.”
For many kids in their program, internet-based programs serve as a gateway to new interests with lifelong benefits. Several students have expressed an interest in tech careers after participating in STEM workshops, including a recent drone building and piloting program.
Inspiring kids to pursue new and exciting opportunities is just a part of their mission, says Keith.
“Our main goal is to instill lessons on how to grow up to become good citizens and make responsible decisions,” Keith said. “Our kids face so many challenges both inside and outside of school. We’re here to give them the confidence to overcome those challenges and to realize their fullest potential.”
Learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs and how to support its mission at www.bgcrc.net/.