Carpentersville school wing to be remodeled into space for Boys and Girls Club high schoolers
When Drew Glassford was hired this year to lead the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township, board members charged him with a key vision for the organization: Prepare kids for a successful future.
That goal was built into the club's foundation and has been achieved time and again the past 22 years, leaders say, thanks to community partners and a growing number of resources offered to at-risk youth.
The organization is now "raising the bar," its new CEO said, with creation of a larger and more innovative High School Program Center.
Built out in an unused wing of Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville, the center is expected to offer enhanced programming in areas such as academics, creative arts, physical fitness, life skills and workforce development. The project supports the organization's "club to career pathway" strategy, which aims to train students for life after graduation through hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, Glassford said.
"The gauge of success on (the club's) outcomes is employability," he said. "We want our kids to be known as an employable, effective and impactful force in this community."
About 40 high school students attend the after-school program each day at the existing "Teen Center," located within a park district fitness facility in Carpentersville, program Director Mark Mansor said. He said he hopes to grow to 150 by the end of the academic year. The new center will have space for roughly 250 teens.
"What keeps me coming every day is the idea of seeing these kids. They always bring something different to the table," he said. "College isn't for everybody, so we kind of want to be the middle man where we can jump in and support them in wherever it is that they're going -- just try to give them as much guidance as we can."
The Boys and Girls Club held a ceremonial "wall-breaking" Wednesday to kick off construction of the facility, which is within walking distance from Dundee-Crown High School. It is expected to contain a culinary arts lab, a creative arts lab, a cafe, a sound lab, a mentoring and tutoring center, a computer lab, a build lab and a gymnasium.
The club raised $2.5 million to fund construction and operational expenses, Glassford said, adding a strong partnership with Community Unit District 300 administrators made the project possible. It is expected to be complete by late November.
"We're using existing facilities -- it's the beauty of the work we do -- so we can invest in our kids and not brick and mortar," Glassford said, "which is an extraordinary statement of efficiency and effectiveness, but most of all, lives we can impact."
The "club to career" concept has been well established, though on a different scale, at the elementary and middle school levels, he said. Club leaders and partners are now developing the program at a high school level, where students can leverage career pathway opportunities available at District 300, community colleges and major local employers.
"This is the final piece to really achieve success," Glassford said.
As a club board member and the president of Carpentersville's largest employer, Tom Roeser said he has seen firsthand the impact of the Boys and Girls Club on the community the past two decades. Gang activity has significantly diminished, he said, and graffiti is no longer spotted on his Otto Engineering buildings.
Meanwhile, the club's attendance has jumped to nearly 2,000 kids per day.
"It has made this community a lot better," Roeser said. "Carpentersville is winning, and this is one of the things everyone can be proud of."