Not A Moment But A Movement - 133 Years of Fighting Injustice
For over 133 years Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia has provided safe environments and enriching experiences to help Philadelphia’s children meet their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Since our founding, we have been committed to serving all of Philadelphia’s young people. At a time when many youth serving organizations served only white youth, our Wissahickon Club opened in 1896 as the first Club in the country to serve African American kids.
"This is not a moment, but a movement. Boys & Girls Clubs have been fighting injustice for 133 years" - Campaign Chairman, Sean Bloodwell
As one of the original 53 Clubs to join the Federated Boys Club in 1906, the Wissahickon Club remained one of only two African American Clubs in the nation well into the 1920’s. In 1913, the Wissahickon Club came under the direction of William T. Coleman, the first African American Superintendent in the Boys Club movement. Mr. Coleman greatly expanded the membership and prestige of the Wissahickon Club while advocating to establish Boys Clubs in African American communities across the country. Throughout his Boys Club career, Mr. Coleman was responsible for opening at least 10 new Clubs for African American youth nation-wide including several in Philadelphia.
As the first Boys & Girls Club in the nation to serve African American children, we recognize our responsibility to continue addressing the injustices and inequities that our youth face daily. Last year, we served over 9,700 predominantly low-income, minority youth at 20 Clubs throughout Philadelphia.
Today Philadelphia’s kids and communities grapple with the legacy left by deindustrialization, institutional racism, and public divestment. The loss of the City’s commercial tax-base resulted in underfunded education and social service systems. In the communities, we serve on average 40% of youth live in poverty and according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 17% of Philadelphia’s 4th graders read proficiently. Research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that youth who do not read on-level by third grade, and live in poverty for at least 1 year are 13 times more likely than their economically stable, proficient peers not to graduate from high school.
Access to a quality education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for Philadelphia’s kids. Unfortunately, too many of the kids we serve do not receive the educational resources they need during the school day. In fact in 2018, the high schools designated to serve our communities had an average on-time graduation rate of just 61% with just one-third of graduates enrolling in post-secondary education.
These harsh realities have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted the communities we serve. As schools closed in response to the pandemic, BGCP has stepped up, providing emergency meal service to ensure that no kids went hungry and virtual programming to help prevent learning-loss and support social and emotional health.
"The city is doing everything we can to keep our children safe in this unprecedented time of uncertainty but we need organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs to step up in times like this- providing additional resources to help keep our city’s children safe” - Council Member Cindy Bass
As we look to reopen our doors on July 6th, we will embrace Mr. Coleman’s legacy, by addressing the urgent needs of the kids who need us the most.
BGCP’s multisensory Literacy and STEM programming help our kids overcome the academic achievement gap and achieve their dreams. These programs are more important than ever in light of Covid-19’s impact on our communities. While students in wealthier districts were immediately engaged in virtual learning, due to a lack of technology access, youth enrolled in School District of Philadelphia did not have access to the virtual classroom until 53 days after schools shut down. Even once on-line education began, a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer showed that just 57% of students participated on weekly.
During the Covid-19 closures, our virtual literacy and STEM programs reached over 500 youth. This summer, our in-person camps will provide nearly 1,000 youth with daily literacy and STEM activities, while our virtual programming continues to engage kids who are not able to attend on-site. Through daily sessions focused on encoding, decoding, reading, and writing, our literacy program will help youth develop phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Our STEM programs will build numeracy, critical thinking and scientific inquiry skills.
For over 133 years, BGCP has been committed to meeting the changing needs of our kids and communities. We have adapted programs to specifically address educational access and food insecurity, while continuing to provide youth with a home away from home. As our city and region work to emerge from the shadow of Covid-19, we realize that the needs of our communities will be greater than ever.
"As an organization, we cannot let our guard down, we must always be ready to safeguard the kids we serve to the best of our ability. In times like this, many children are forgotten as the problems and issues of the world over-shadow that of our growing youth. Our focus needs to be on the health and well-being of the children" - Co-CEO & President Lisabeth Marziello
Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia is dedicated to ensuring that our kids thrive no matter the challenges they face.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia has changed the lives of youth for more than 133 years and we will continue to serve our city for generations to come.
Your donation and support will help us provide Philadelphia’s kids with life-changing programs and services regardless of what challenges we face. With your leadership we can help kids overcome obstacles such as community violence, poverty, hunger, and educational access, to meet their potential and achieve their dreams. Help us give all of Philadelphia’s youth access to a great future.