The Crusader Newspaper Group

One youth club aims to provide the ultimate club experience

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana’s Duneland Club transformed into a hub of Youth Development Professionals, Guest Speakers, and Thought Leaders on August 7 – 8. While the Club was closed to youth on these two days, their safety and Club Experience were still at the very top of Boys & Girls Clubs’ priority list. For two days, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana held their first-ever Coming Together Conference. This two-day conference brought together more than 275 staff and volunteers to participate in engaging training which challenged Boys & Girls Clubs staff members to be more creative, innovative, and results-driven when providing out-of-school time for community youth.

“Safety of every child that walks through our Club doors is our number one priority,” states Ryan Smiley, president and CEO for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “Professional development of our staff is vitally important to ensure that we are providing the best quality programs for kids, but also to give them the best experience when they are in our Clubs. Our Coming Together Conferenceserved many purposes such as an interactive training for staff, to keep safety at the top of everyone’s priority list as we open for fall programming and the new school year, and to further engage our staff in our new organizational culture of trust, teamwork, empathy, accountability, opportunity and fun,” Smiley explains further.

Training sessions and keynote addresses focused on Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana’s and Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Vision 2025 strategic plan. Breakout sessions included Playworks, a group from Chicago, coaching staff on making athletic, Gamesroom, and league activities more engaging, fun, and safe; training on increasing teen participation by incorporating programs like Junior Staff, Youth of the Year, and community service into every day programming; and talking about youth mental health with breakout sessions discussing self-injury awareness, special needs inclusion, and verbal de-escalation methods.

Keynote sessions afforded Club staff to hear and learn from top leaders from the community to gain new skills to help create an ultimate Club and Kidstop Experience for kids. Keynote speakers included Timothy D. Rice of Lakeside Wealth Management and Board of Directors member; Jackie Rhew, Co-Founder of Center for Emotional Wellness of Northwest Suburbs; Jessica McKinley and Lana Taylor from Indiana Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs; Vernon Hill, motivational speaker; Ruth Halstead, Marriage and Family Therapist; and Ericka Gergely, Geminus Headstart School Age Specialist.

The Coming Together Conference was the brainchild of Angie Barber, training and development coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. With a programming background, her commitment for the professional development of staff is unwavering.

“I wanted to create a training experience that went beyond classroom style,” Barber explains. “I have been to professional conferences, and I wanted our staff to feel and experience a high quality training experience where they can personally engage in their learning instead of just being talked to in a classroom type setting. They had the freedom to pick training sessions that are most applicable to their area of responsibility within our Clubs. However, my favorite parts of the entire conference are when our Club and Kidstopmembers performed what they have learned within our Clubs. It really hit home for many of our professional staff, to actually see the impact of their involvement and mentorship of kids that visit our Clubs daily,” Barber states further.

The Coming Together Conference will now be held annually with plans for next year’s training in the development stage.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana:

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana has been opening doors to GREAT FUTURES for Porter and Lake County youth for 64 years! Clubs are open after school and provide great places for youth in grades K-12 to meet friends and have fun while in a safe, supervised environment. Clubs are open during holidays and in the summer. Annual membership is only $35.00. For information on membership, volunteer opportunities, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact your local Club by calling (219) 764-2582 or visiting Great Futures Start HERE.

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FORMER YOUTH OF the Year Club members talking to staff on how the Club impact their lives in a very positive way; Photo 6: Club staff who contributed to the staff campaign are inaugurated into the organizations “Big Heart Club.” (All photos provided by BGCGNWI)
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PLAYWORKS FROM CHICAGO getting Club staff moving by demonstrating how to engage youth in physical activities to build healthy lifestyles.
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STAFF PARTICIPATING IN a Teen Programming session in the Duneland Club’s Teen Room.
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