When the new Eddy and Debbie Peach Elementary opened this year on Baird Farm Road, the school boasted a 7,000 square-foot bonus. After learning the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington program at Roquemore Elementary was no longer needed, and after meeting with Arlington Independent School District officials, organization officials worked quickly to raise more than $2 million to build a new facility directly onto the new school building, says Steve Wurm, CEO and president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington.
“I’m telling you, the community was excited about this,” he says.
Club facilities are normally located at different properties, or in separate buildings on the same property, Wurm notes. But at Peach Elementary, students and parents can come straight to the club from inside the school building.
“It is a unique partnership between the AISD and a non-profit organization,” Wurm says. “We like to look at it that we are on the cutting edge of the way things are looked at now.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs portion of the building maintains separate areas for elementary school and junior high school students. In addition, each section has its own learning center and recreation area. Women Inspiring Philanthropy provided a grant for technology, equipment and resources, according to Wurm, while the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation supplied a $650,000 challenge grant for bricks and mortar.
Stephanie Lee, the school’s principal, says the only drawback has been not being able to serve more students. The club currently benefits 200 students and has a waiting list. “We try to create an environment where what kids are learning in school they can continue to learn after school in a different way,” Wurm says.
The program shares gym and lunchroom facilities with the school and provides a healthy snack after school and a warm meal at 6 p.m. In addition, Wurm says participants receive incentives and rewards for good behavior. He also notes that the club sometimes serves as a link between the school and family.
“Some parents can’t get off of work in time to meet with school officials,” he says.
Last year, Mariah Mcneill, now a seventh grader at Nichols Junior High, moved to Arlington from North Carolina with her mother, Samira Purvis. Purvis says her daughter did not socialize much at first.
The 12-year- old likes playing sports and games, creating art and being part of the STEAM team at the facility. She says club members have lots of opportunities. “They can be outgoing,” Mcneill says. “It’s really great.”
Program manager John Rosales, who helped design the Boys & Girls Clubs portion of the facility, says having two vans to transport students from Nichols has been a plus. Surrounded by pool tables, stacks of juice and boxes of science and technology kits, Rosales talks about the impact of the club on the lives of children, citing how the academic elements of the program along with recreation and physical fitness help children develop life skills and practice conflict resolution.
Rosales says what really makes the program at Peach different is the relationship and ease of communication between the Boys and Girls Clubs staff and the school. “I can walk down the hall and talk to the principal,” he says. “I get to be a resource for them, and they get to be a resource for us.”
Rosales especially embraces being involved in the lives of the children, getting to know the parents and working on solutions together is rewarding. “That’s why we do it,” he says. “I love these kids.”
Wurm agrees and notes that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington provide a positive environment for about 1,200 children citywide.