By Kevin East
What an honor it is to lead a great ministry here in this community – The Mentoring Alliance. It is comprised of three different programs: Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas, Gospel Village and Rose City Summer Camps. One organization, three programs. Each of our programs are focused on providing mentoring relationships to kids all over this community – even those who come from challenging circumstances.
Years ago, when we were considering the various ways our organization could make a lasting impact in the lives of kids and families, we hosted a focus group of women. We asked them a simple question. Our question was centered around getting to know them better, understanding the challenges they were facing, and plotting a course that we felt could best serve them.
It was one of those days when we got more than we bargained for.
One lady in the group spoke up and said, “Many people think a lack of financial resources is our main problem, but that is only one of them. It is the “lack” in general that is our problem, including the lack of role models for our kids.”
You see, I’ve come to know many mothers, grandmothers, aunts and guardians here in this community over the last 6 years. Quite often these women are hard-working – sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet. And while they do, their sons and daughters lack supervision. They lack people support.
So as these women lamented to us, their children end up falling into the wrong crowds at school and in their neighborhood, becoming another statistic this world expects them to become.
That day we decided we would focus our attention and efforts in a targeted way: We exist to mobilize godly people into the lives of kids and families, to provide tangible help and eternal hope. In short, we want to provide mentors for these young people in our community.
We consider it a high honor and privilege to be able to come alongside these familial caregivers to build into their sons and daughters. We applaud them for their tenacity, faithfulness, and commitment to their children and their future.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas is the after-school program of The Mentoring Alliance. Over 1,230 students in kindergarten through 8th grade are members of clubs at 18 different local campuses in Tyler, Whitehouse and Bullard. Staff mentors work with the students in a safe, fun environment right on their own campus during after-school hours to help them develop academically, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Parents are able to pick up their children from these programs with homework completed, a healthy snack or meal served, and active energy expended from outdoor play and physical activities. The loving and positive atmosphere provided by the highly trained staff is a distinguishing characteristic of this program.
What an incredible gift it was to be selected as a recipient of the 2018 grant funding cycle of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. It was by this gift that we were able to expand our Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas beyond elementary campuses and into the middle school level. The grant allowed us to pilot “The Club” at Boulter Middle School last year.
I mentioned the great, godly people we want to mobilize in this community. In our Boys & Girls Club programs, that is our staff. Taylor Bell and Jasmine Owens were the Site Director and Assistant Site Director at the Club at Boulter Middle School during our pilot program. They provided the backbone for the rest of the staff to follow. Through their leadership they set the example for the many middle school boys and girls who attended the program every day.
Here’s one thing I’m sure of: It doesn’t matter whether someone is short or tall; Athletic or Academic; African American, Caucasian, Latino or something else…that all of us were created in the image of God, and therefore have immense value.
The middle school students we serve are the future men and women that will shape this community and our world. We want them to know that we believe in them. Our community believes in them. And the Women’s Fund believes in them so much that they chose to invest in them and their future by helping them be involved at the Club at Boulter.
God has a plan for each of the kids in our Boulter program, and we are excited to watch that unfold.
This incredible gift enabled and empowered us to provide our Club members at Boulter with tangible help and eternal hope each and every day this past year. As we look toward the future, I am excited to think about how the middle school program will continue to grow in this community and the potential change that could result.
Kevin East serves as President and CEO of The Mentoring Alliance, a 2018 grant award recipient of The Women’s Fund of Smith County. The $100,000 grant from this collective giving circle of more than 250 women provided an on-site after-school program at Boulter Middle School, building academic success, life readiness and emotional resilience for middle school youth. For more information about the Women’s Fund, please visit www.womensfundsc.org