Boys & Girls Clubs nurture tomorrow’s leaders
by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland
Mar 20, 2014 | 680 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tomorrow's leaders are growing up today in the neighborhoods around us.

Many are active already in our schools, churches and community groups. All of us know some of the younger generation already through our families, churches and the community organizations we support.

Three members of this young generation recently came before the City Council to deliver the speeches that won them Youth of the Year and runners-up titles at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. They were amazing young people and an inspiration to everyone in the room.

Clifton Biddwell is the club's Youth of the Year winner. He and the runners-up, Embry Barks and Chloe Tatum, spoke to the Council and city officials. Clifton will represent the local club in Boys & Girls Clubs state competition in coming weeks.

Each one of these young people spoke about overcoming great challenges in their lives already. They have survived circumstances and situations that even the strongest adult might find defeating. But these youth know they are winners.

Each of the young speakers credited the role models they found at the Boys & Girls Clubs who provided the encouragement and support they needed. Clifton, Embry and Chloe are looking ahead to bright and successful futures.

Turning out bright and talented young citizens like these is what the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland has been doing for 50 years now. The local club was incorporated on June 1, 1964. It became a United Way agency in 1967.

Each day after school, and each day during the summer, the club serves hundreds of children and youth. It provides a life-enhancing and safe place to learn and grow. It provides opportunities in the arts, sports and fitness, health and life skills, education, character and leadership development through a caring staff and a board of community leaders.

The club has grown from one location in 1964 to seven units today. These include the Tucker Unit and the George Johnson Teen Unit, both on Third Street; and the Powers Unit on Lay Street, Cleveland State Community College Unit, Blythe Unit on Blythe Avenue, Painter Unit on 11th Street and the Benton Unit on Campbell Road.

An important fact you’ll learn from Clifton’s comments this year is the fact that a satellite Boys & Girls Clubs unit was in his neighborhood. Otherwise, he may never have become involved.

Other winners in the past have similarly credited the neighborhood units because they would not have traveled to the large facility near downtown Cleveland. The outreach program is a vital part of the Boys & Girls Clubs, reaching out into neighborhoods where children need programs, activities, support, mentors and role models.

Our Boys & Girls Clubs sites here are filled with leaders, supporters and volunteers who do much to make our facilities one of the best anywhere. It starts at the top, and two recent awards for Executive Director Charles Sutton were well deserved. They are indicative of the dedication we have in our local club.

A month ago, Sutton received the United Way’s Col. Jim Tucker Service Award. Then, a few days ago he was honored at the 2014 Southeast Boys & Girls Clubs of America Leadership Conference with a Regional Award of Excellence. His dedication and enthusiasm for his role are contagious and that’s one of the reasons our local club excels in so many areas.

Today, the club is finishing a week of special events to celebrate National Boys & Girls Clubs Week. Many community organizations and volunteers have helped make it a fun and eventful week.

In today's world, all of our citizens of tomorrow need our support, whether they live in our most affluent neighborhoods or in other areas where resources may not be as plentiful or available.

“The City With Spirit” has many fine organizations devoted to nurturing our youth. But there’s no better example than the Cleveland Boys & Girls Clubs.

Thanks to all the leaders, supporters, volunteers and youth who work hard investing in our future citizens.