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The Boys and Girls Club launches a new lunch and after-school program at Laguna Middle School in SLO 

Given The Boys and Girls Club's robust programming on the Central Coast—nearly 3,000 youth served by 14 after-school clubs from Paso Robles to Santa Maria—one could easily assume that the city of San Luis Obispo had at least one of those clubs.

But that's actually not the case—until this month. On April 18, the national nonprofit's local chapter will launch its first-ever club in SLO, at Laguna Middle School, offering both lunch and after-school programming for its teen and pre-teen students.

click to enlarge HEALTHY TEENS Boys and Girls Club members with the Paso Robles Flamson Club enjoy a recent "teen night." San Luis Obispo's first-ever Boys and Girls Club is set to launch at Laguna Middle School this month. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB MID-CENTRAL COAST CHAPTER
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Boys And Girls Club Mid-central Coast Chapter
  • HEALTHY TEENS Boys and Girls Club members with the Paso Robles Flamson Club enjoy a recent "teen night." San Luis Obispo's first-ever Boys and Girls Club is set to launch at Laguna Middle School this month.

Michael Boyer, executive director of the mid-Central Coast chapter, told New Times that the Boys and Girls Club had never ventured into SLO because the city and YMCA have historically operated after-school programs for its schools.

But the Boys and Girls Club is a perfect fit to serve San Luis Coastal Unified School District, given the organization's singular focus on youth, he said.

"The community of SLO is really excited," Boyer said. "Boys and Girls Club is unique in that it only focuses on young kids, primarily under teenage years. That focus has given us huge expertise locally and nationally."

The new Laguna club comes at an opportune time, as the school community has returned to in-person classes after the pandemic, is in increasing need of affordable after-school care options, and sees a surge in concerning behavior at school, like bullying and hate speech.

"We kind of have the pulse on these types of issues," Boyer said. "There definitely has been, since the pandemic, an increase in hate speech as well as bullying. We hear about that from our school partners. Our programs aren't necessarily very specifically targeted at that, but we're giving people other opportunities to do constructive things."

Laguna's after-school club will start with 80 openings for student club members, but Boyer noted that "we want to do everything we can to serve [more students]" if the demand is greater.

In a less common move for the nonprofit, the Boys and Girls Club will also offer lunchtime programming at Laguna, open to any student who wants to participate, not just the after-school club members.

Lunch activities will include organized athletics, like dodgeball and basketball, plus opportunities to work on science, art, and musical projects, and more.

"Every day there'll be a different activity," Boyer said.

The after-school club, which meets until about 5:30 p.m., always begins with the "power hour"—an hour for students to focus on finishing their homework with a trained tutor available to help. Students then get a snack and can partake in games, activities, and educational programming.

"We also provide very specific programming on what it's like to be a pre-teenager," Boyer added, "and what you should expect and how you should prepare to be a young man or young woman."

According a Boys and Girls Club press release, the San Luis Coastal School District had been "eager to put programming in place to confront bullying and cultural awareness issues found at the middle school level." The district found that the nonprofit's model—which focuses on not just academics, but leadership and community-mindedness—was "the ideal way to bring a comprehensive program to the campus."

And at a cost of just $50 per student per year (with financial aid options available for families who need it), the club is accessible to all.

"We have to realize that even in the city of SLO, we have up to 30 percent of our families who can't afford fee-for-service type programs," Boyer said. "We want to give that opportunity to any kid that wants to have fun after school, get their homework done with a tutor, and do cool stuff in the STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] lab too."

To learn more about the local Boys and Girls Club chapter, visit centralcoastkids.org.

Fast fact

Wildflower Women—a local boutique shop with four locations and a fifth set to open in downtown San Luis Obispo this month—is announcing a new incentive program to help its customers with the rising fuel prices. According to the company, Wildflower Women will credit customers $1 for each gallon of fuel (for up to 20 gallons) that they consume for each week in April. On top of that, customers who spend $200 or more on a purchase during the month will be entered in a raffle to win a $100 gas station gift card. See wildflowerwomenboutique.com for more info. Δ

Reach Assistant Editor Peter Johnson at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.

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