On October 16th the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club launched a brand-new program that provides a space where 6th-8thgraders can learn new skills, play sports, and participate in a community space designed especially for them. For a membership fee of only $25, members of our new “Middle School Drop-In Program” gain access to the building and a rotating schedule of activities between 5:30 and 7 PM each weekday throughout the entire ’23-’24 school year. The goal of this program is to open up a space that is accessible to all youth regardless of income, with activities geared towards investing in this crucial age group and preparing them for the future. Unlike our traditional After School programming, the “Middle School Drop-In Program” extends later into the evening and offers members the opportunity to customize their own experiences. Participants in this program are encouraged to take ownership of the space, create a community with their peers, and choose their interests from a variety of available programming.

On Mondays, members can choose between sports in the gym or “Art with Amanda,” where they can learn drawing, painting and jewelry-making techniques. “Art with Amanda” is supported in part by a grant from the West Springfield Arts Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. Tuesdays offer an opportunity for “Pizza with a Professional,” where interested members can meet with mentors from a variety of different careers and industries. Also on Tuesdays are our Comcast Tech Lab programs, where participants can use 3D printers, learn programming skills, and more! Wednesdays offer classes on American Sign Language as well as a members-only open gym night, while on Thursdays members can practice their E-Sports skills. Finally, we have another opportunity to get moving on Fridays with Zumba classes in the gym!

We at the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club are committed to investing our time, spaces, and funds into our teens, because we know that offering them a strong foundation can make the difference between building great futures for themselves and their community or a lifetime spent struggling to “catch up” to peers who had better access to resources at a young age. We believe that every youth should have the opportunity to learn 3D design, practice their art and writing skills, join a sports team – or an e-sports team – and be surrounded by adults who will listen to them, teach them, and invest in them. Our thanks also go out to the M&T Charitable Foundation and the Eversource Energy Foundation for their grants that are helping to support this program. Our Club teens are getting ready to take on the world, and we are so glad to be able to offer them the resources and support they need to do so!