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By: Clay Steward
The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland gave a presentation to the Piedmont Rotary Club recently in hopes of spreading awareness to the program. They are currently partnered with Three Rivers College and want to tell as many people as they possibly can.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland is an after school and summer program that serves youth ages six through 17. Their mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need the program to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland is not owned by the Boys and Girls Club of America. They have their own board of directors and answer to them.
They are operated solely by donations from individuals, organizations and the government. All funds are received and put towards the mission. The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland receive no profit.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland was incorporated in 1999. They started at a house in Poplar Bluff with just 25 kids. In February of 2000, they started serving the youth and have expanded throughout the years. Now, they serve almost 680 kids and after almost 25 years it continues to grow.
Ten years ago they were serving about a thousand meals a year. Today, they are serving well over 50,000 every year. They know that some kids rely on the meals provided at school and don’t have an opportunity after that. They believe kids need a good, healthy, hot meal.
One service they offer is Power Hour, where they offer help with homework. They have one certified teacher and two youth development professionals to every 20 members. They use hands-on skills when teaching the kids. Their curriculum, grades and attendance are all through their school. They can tell when a student is having a hard time and will do what they need to to help the student excel.
They also have an enrichment program that provides social and emotional needs. Back in 2021, they realized that they wanted to expand the program from Butler County. They had seen that so many kids in the area needed to be shown that there is a better way to be successful. On October 28, 2021, they officially revealed their name the Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland to the public. Currently, they are open in nine locations in Poplar Bluff and Neelyville. They are helping over 680 youth every day after school.
At the presentation, they revealed the MAP scores for the Bluff. In elementary they scored 85% to 75%. In the Jr. and Sr. High the scores dropped to 37% and 48%. The scores drop because the students are now old enough to stay home by themselves. They are not interested in an after school program so they run streets, get in trouble with the law and stay on social media.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland wants students to get excited about the program. They conducted a needs assessment in 2021 and surveyed 1044 students, 206 parents and 157 teachers. 40% of the students do not participate in afterschool programs due to a lack of interest. That 40% is made up of mostly the kids that don’t fit in. The club realized that someone needed to advocate for them.
This is when the Great Futures program was introduced. This program is completely free of charge and starts in seventh grade with the Sidekicks program. This program teaches the students how to be a mentor, friend, budget time, explore options and the steps it takes to fulfill your dreams.
As a freshman in high school you can participate in the career launch program. This program teaches you things like personal budget, how a checking account works, how a savings account works, helps them understand personal finance and teaches them how to develop a plan for their dream career.
By the time the student is a sophomore, their future will start to take focus. The student will be given the opportunity that only members of the Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland are allowed to participate in. The club has partnered with Three Rivers College to renew their award winning college kids program.
In the Fall of their sophomore year, students will take their first college class, academic life strategies. This class will supercharge everything they learned in the previous three years and will earn them three college credits at absolutely no charge. The weekly classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 3:30 and ending at 4:45 on the Three Rivers College Campus.
In the Spring semester, sophomores will take computer applications and in the same days and times they’ll learn Microsoft programs such as excel, powerpoint, word and more.
As sophomore year closes, students will become a certified junior staff member of the boys and girls club. They club also wants to sit with your parents or guardians at their great futures meeting to zero in on where your heart is leading you at this point in your academic career. The club has also teamed up with businesses throughout the area as their goal is to become the team and employment hub of Butler County.
In their junior year of high school, students should probably have a good idea if they would like to start career exploration or begin a path towards a college degree. If a two or four year degree is in their plans, then you’ll continue at Three Rivers in the Fall semester taking National State Government, then Public Speaking in the Spring. In your senior year, college pathway participants will take College Writing in the Fall and mathematical reasoning in the Spring.
As the student walks across the stage at graduation, they’ll have 18 college credit hours and a tremendous headstart on a two year associates of arts degree. With this award winning college program, the Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland has also partnered with Missouri State University in Springfield. Graduates will be awarded scholarships for completing the program.
If the student is ready to start their career the day you graduate, the Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland will show the student the way. Starting their junior year, they’ll get hands-on experience at the Three Rivers Learning Lab, located at the Industrial Park, and earn college credit. In the Fall, juniors will take applied circuits and blueprint reading and industrial electronic controls in the Spring. Seniors in the Fall will take robotics one and two and in the Spring will take hydraulics and pneumatics.
As they walk across the stage at graduation, they will not only receive a high school diploma, but will also walk with a Three Rivers graduation certificate as a certified electrical process technician. Graduates can expect to earn 40 thousand dollars per year to start.
This year the program has provided programs for students in the Bluff, Neelyville Naylor and Doniphan. Next school year, they want Piedmont to be part of it. The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland invited both the superintendent of Greenville and East Carter to go to the meeting, but couldn’t make it. They are hopeful that they can make the program work at Clearwater high school in the upcoming year. They also would like to go south and include Holcomb. Other schools they’d like to include are Dexter, Puxico, Bloomfield, and Bernie. They would also eventually like to include Corning.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland has started looking for people that wanna be stakeholders. This is absolutely needed for where they think they are going to be moving on the first day of school in 2026. As of right now, they have 3.3 million dollars and need 10 million dollars. People are getting excited about the program. The Boys and Girls Club of the Heartland wants to partner with other programs offered at the schools as well.
The program right now is 50% funded by the government by grants. The club also charges $10 a month to members who can afford it. To raise money, the club has various fundraisers planned. They have one planned for this month and plan to make $75,000.