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Boys & Girls Club offering summer in-person programs

“I want kids to know anyone can be a leader, and if they come to this week they will approach the remainder of their school year and their approach to community and college with a different lens.”
— Kat Nelson

VERGENNES — Rocketry. Woodworking. Arts and crafts. Ice cream making. Painting. Sports. Rope climbing.

It’s all on the menu for area 4th- through 8th-graders this summer, offered in weekly chunks every morning in-person at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes.

And all the programming is free of charge, partly because club officials hope to reestablish the club after a year of COVID-19 restrictions.

To that end, the club’s Armory Lane headquarters will be also be open afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to allow teens to relax there on their own, and club CEO Kat Nelson will also offer them a mid-July week-long morning leadership training session.

Nelson, club program director Steven Maluenda, club director of operations Lisa Davis and program assistants Abby LaVoie and Jason Clark will all have a hand in running the programs, and there will be extra help and field trips for each.

“We’ll either go somewhere, a place in town like Memorial Park, or someone’s going to come to us,” Nelson said. “I just started reaching out to folks, and they were so excited, particularly Laura Mack at lu.lu (ice cream shop), and I just spoke to Jess Steen at Northern Daughters (Gallery), and she said, ‘We’d love to have you come.’”

Other guests have come before to the club or helped run Zoom programming and been popular. Those guests included woodworker Stanley Huber and Collins Aerospace engineer Brian Gebo, who will help out with rocket building in STEM week.

Programs begin with Arts & Crafts Week, starting on June 28. They will run daily weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, when an included lunch will also begin. There will be adults at the club by 7:30 a.m. to allow attendees to arrive early if that is more convenient for families.

The one program for teens runs from July 19 to 23: Nelson will offer leadership training from 9 a.m. to noon each day.

“We really wanted give a specific opportunity catered toward teens that will give them the opportunity to develop as leaders,” Nelson said.

She emphasized those who don’t see themselves as leaders can flourish.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to understand that everybody has the opportunity to be a leader. I think a lot of kids think being a leader is being the most outgoing person or being the loudest, most engaging,” she said.

“But I want kids to know anyone can be a leader, and if they come to this week they will approach the remainder of their school year and their approach to community and college with a different lens.”

Those who take the course could also help out with the final three weeks of youth programming, possibly for pay if the club gets a grant. Nelson said the club will learn this week if the funding will come through.

PROGRAMS

The full slate of programs for 4th-8th graders, most of which still have between five and 10 openings (sign up at bgcvergennes.org or call 870-7199), is:

•  June 28-July 2: Arts & Crafts Week, which will include a visit to Northern Daughters Gallery downtown.

•  July 6-9: STEM week, in which Brian Gebo from Collins Aerospace to help attendees build rockets. “Maybe we’ll have a contest to see whose goes the farthest, or the straightest, or the highest,” Nelson said.

•  July 12-16: Athletics Week, including a visit to the city’s tennis courts and skate park. “We’ll try to have a different sport each day,” Nelson said. “We’ll try to focus on one drill, a couple games, and keep it not too competitive.” Those will include basketball, soccer and volleyball at the club.

Nelson is looking forward to the visit to the city’s rec park. She is a former college tennis player and Maluenda is a veteran skate boarder. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the club’s Foosball table, two Xboxes and computer games are waiting to be used.

•  July 19-23: Woodworker Stanley Huber will help attendees “make something they can take home with them,” Nelson said. At this point, however, the woodworking program appears to be full.

Nelson is working on alternative programming, however, and advised those looking for morning activities that week to stay tuned: “We always have room for more arts and crafts.” 

•  July 26-30: “Water & Ice” week is scheduled, including the visit downtown to lu.lu. The water part will consist largely of outdoor water play, Nelson said, such as slip-and-slides, sprinkler runs and water balloon tosses, and probably smoothie making.

•  Aug. 2-6: “Synergy Week” will include as a two-day visit to the climbing course at Vergennes Union High School led by VUHS physical education and health teacher Sarah Cook. Nelson described other games that are “sneakily team-building exercises, but also just fun.”

•  Aug. 9-13: “Greatest Hits” week will offer the most popular activities from all the summer programs, plus a painting class led by Jackie Botala and a season-ending barbecue for families that Nelson hopes will double as a recruiting tool.

ATTENDANCE

Nelson said many, but not all, of those who have signed up are club members, but many others are not, and she hopes the summer can be used to boost attendance as the club seeks to bounce back to or improve upon its pre-COVID daily levels.

Before the club had to go remote more than a year ago daily attendance stood at around 30, she said.

This past year it dropped to 12 to 15 a day, numbers that rose to around 20 in recent weeks after VUHS went back to fully in-person learning.

Nelson said club officials are also considering separate evening hours for older members, thus allowing both younger and older members full use of the clubhouse.

She believes this spring’s rising attendance is a good sign.

“I think those kids are excited to be back,” Nelson said. “So I think we’re going to make a big push at the end of the summer and the fall to get as many folks reengaged as possible. We feel really good about the end of the school year with the numbers we’re seeing and the relationship with the kids that it’s only going to continue to grow back up.”

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