Since opening its doors in June 1996, the Boys & Girls Club of Sierra Vista has been providing young people with guidance, support and inspiration in a fun, interactive environment.
Leading the Club’s operations are Jay Hamwright, the organization’s chief professional officer, along with his right hand man, Detric Miles, club director.
Both were members of the B&G Club of Sierra Vista themselves while growing up and both were hired by the club in 2007, where they have served in different positions.
“I was a club member from elementary school up until high school,” said Hamwright. “I started in the fifth grade when my parents were stationed at Fort Huachuca through the Army. At that age, things like moving and making changes in your life are always intimidating, but I fell in love with the club right away. Homework help and sports were what the club helped me with most. I also liked the community service projects.”
During the time that Hamwright and Miles were club members, the Clubhouse was in a different Sierra Vista location.
“The first Clubhouse opened in 1996 in a building on First Street,” Hamwright recalled. “It was an older, much smaller building, so when we moved into this location, the transformation was amazing.”
When the building at the current location on Paseo San Luis became available in 2008, the board of directors jumped at the opportunity to relocate the Clubhouse. They purchased the building in 2009. The current 12,300-square-foot facility features a technology lab, multipurpose room, teen room, kitchen, art room, game room and spaces for executive offices.
B&G Club memberships are available to children from first grade through high school. The club’s programs are packed full of activities that shape character development, promote positive lifestyles and provide academic support, said Miles, who moved to Sierra Vista from Texas while in elementary school. Like Hamwright, he became a club member not long after arriving in Sierra Vista.
“Being part of the Boys & Girls Club at that age was really good for me,” he said. “I was very shy then, so the club helped me come out of my shell. I started participating in more activities and socializing with the other kids, which helped me develop a more outgoing personality.”
Miles says he sees those same kinds of transformations in kids all the time. “We see shy kids when they first get here, but with all the activities we have going on, they get over it. They can play sports, do art projects, shoot pool, or use the computers. They can choose what they want to do; there’s a lot of versatility here.”
With a focus on the club’s five core programs of Character and Leadership, Education and Career, Health and Life Skills, Arts, and Sports, and Fitness and Recreation, Hamwright said members develop positive life skills through the different activities that support those programs, along with mentoring and guidance they receive.
One of the more popular activities is Power Hour, where one hour is set aside for homework. Students can get homework help or request tutoring, with staff members and volunteers on hand to help those who need extra assistance, said Miles. “We also have a system called Power Point that rewards members for doing their homework. Parents love the homework side of our program because when their kids go home at night, the homework is done. They can relax and do family activities without having to worry about getting school assignments done.”
Under education and career, club members are able to work on technology skills. “We have a robotics program, and a number of Microsoft programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, so they can learn how to use the programs and stay up on technology,” said Miles, who oversees all the programs and activities.
Once a month, the club offers family night, when parents come in and participate in such activities as game night or movie night with their kids.
“Right now, we have a volunteer who has been coming in and teaching Christmas music to the kids, so they’ve been rehearsing for a holiday production in December, which we will be tying to our family night,” Miles said.
Different restaurants visit the facility and teach the members how to prepare dishes, proper food handling and making healthy food choices.
“We get a lot of support from Buffalo Wild Wings because the owner, Alan Gordon, also was a Boys & Girls Club member at one time,” said Miles. “Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings is Boys & Girls Club night and a percentage of the restaurant’s sales is donated to us.”
“We have a great program here and we’re fortunate to have a very supportive community and board of directors,” noted Hamwright, who serves as liaison between the board and the club. “I oversee the club’s day-to-day club operations, fundraising, grant writing and business operations,” he said. “And I work with the kids as much as I can.”
Providing youth with a positive club experience is the goal, noted Hamwright. “When they leave this program, we want them to leave with the skills they need to be productive members of society.”