Westside Boys & Girls Club celebrates Open House

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Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica Mar Vista Gardens Jack & Cindy Jones Youth Center will host an open house featuring California State Sen. Ben Allen at 1:30 p.m.
In addition to Allen, the event will include a tour of the facility which was renovated in 2016, as well as a speech from Salvador Molina, the 2018 Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year.
Molina, 16, is a member of the Mar Vista Gardens Branch in Culver City and is the first recipient of the annual award from that branch.

Molina began attending the Mar Vista Branch at the age of 12 and through the years, rose to become a leader at club mentoring elementary school children in the club’s STEM curriculum as well as assisting in the coaching of T-ball and soccer for younger kids. He recently began his senior year in high school.

“As the Youth of the Year, he is the face of the organization and the voice of the organization for the club members that we serve,” said Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica Director of Development Nailah Roque. “He has spoken at the annual breakfast and he will be speaking at our gala which is our largest fundraiser of the year.”

So why all the fuss over the Mar Vista Branch of the Boys & Girls club?

Roque said it’s all about awareness.

“The whole purpose of this is to bring awareness to the club, not necessarily to increase our membership, but for people in the community, local residents, local business owners, the city council, the chamber of commerce,” Roque said. “Jack Jones is a board member and he and his wife (Cindy) pledged a million dollars to start this club by making a commitment of $100,000 per year for 10 years. The club is now 5 years old and it’s special because it’s right in the middle of a section 8 housing complex. The majority of the kids who go to that club live in that complex, which creates a special bond and familial culture at that club.”

The issue is that despite being a positive place for kids to spend their time, not very many people in the community know about it. Roque hopes that the open house opens the community’s eyes to a place that could use their support.

“Its good for the community to know what’s going on, what the kids are doing and how they are succeeding despite some circumstances that are not really ideal,” Roque said.
The renovation, which occurred in 2016, included major improvements to the 7, 265 square foot building including a teen center, art shop, technology and education center, full gym, tutoring rooms and studio/sound booth.

This is in addition to the regular amenities of the club which are available daily to members between the ages of 6 and 18 years old such as tutoring, homework assistance, social skills development, sports, technology access, and other programs that promote the three pillars of Boys & Girls Clubs: academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and citizenship.
To promote the three pillars among its youth members, the Mar Vista Branch has instituted several programs to help their kids become well-rounded citizens.

A college-bound program is available and boasts a 100 percent success rate with all seniors who entered the program able to graduate high school on time with impressive grades.
The Mar Vista Branch will be sending their first batch of graduating seniors with some going to Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa
The Club’s music program is where club kids can write and create their own music as well as learn how to play musical instruments.

A STEM program is also a feature of the Mar Vista Branch, allowing club kids the opportunity to acquire technical skills in a fun way. A recent project involved kits donated by Snapchat that allowed club kids to build their own digital cameras.

One of the Club’s more involving programs is the teen leadership program.

In the teen leadership program, teens create and host their own community engagement events, awareness events, and do their own fundraisers. One of the things they do is a monthly club breakfast. The teens run it, they cook the food, they serve the food, they do their advertising and most recently they added food delivery to local residents.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica Board member Tom Larmore of Harding, Larmore, Kutcher & Kozal, LLP has established a relationship with Sen. Allen and thought that he would be a good person to help get the word out about all of the positive happenings at the Mar Vista Branch. Larmore has been updating the senator on the Club’s current activities and working with him to secure the support of local businesses as well as in trying to secure grants and other sources of funding for the center.

If you have questions and would like more information on the Open House for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica Mar Vista Gardens Branch – Jack & Cindy Jones Youth Center, please contact Nailah Roque, Director of Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica at 310-361-8500, ext. 213 or email her at nroque@smbgc.org.