Through a partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast and the city of Guadalupe, the newly renovated community center at LeRoy Park will now serve as the Ron Estabillo Clubhouse—continuing child care services for Guadalupe residents.
“There’s a real crisis in child care, and what we do for after school programming is very proven, our results are proven; we’re a very trusted program. For families that need after school care for kids, we’re the only thing in town,” said Kelly White O’Neill, director of marketing and donor communications for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast.
With the new club opening its doors on Jan. 30, the Boys and Girls Club will have three locations serving the community, with the other two at McKenzie Intermediate School and Mary Buren Elementary School. Together, these three can provide more kids with adequate resources, mentorship, and other programing to help them be successful in school and in their future, she said.
“What sets us apart is the training our staff received. We call our program staff ‘youth development professionals’ because they are highly trained to be mentors. A lot of our staff are former club members—bringing those benefits and that attitude of a sense of excellence to our programs and to their relationships with the kids,” White O’Neill said.
Specifically, staff have been trained in physical and first aid safety; leadership skills and how to oversee groups of children; organization skills; and curriculum, budgeting, and program development. In light of the pandemic’s mental health impact on teens and kids, staff members also received trauma-informed care training to better serve kids’ mental and emotional needs, she added.
“We’re seeing ourselves as leaders in the mental health crisis that kids are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the sense of isolation that a lot of kids felt, and general change and culture in our community,” White O’Neill said.
By partnering with Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness and Transitions-Mental Health Association, program staff receive training on how to look for signs and signals of children’s emotional needs. It’s usually a call for help when a child expresses negative behavior or acts out, and staff can better respond to behavioral situations with this understanding, she said.
“When you start looking at kids as, ‘There’s no such thing as a bad kid, they’re in a bad situation,’ it changes everything in how you deal with kids,” White O’Neill said. “You can change a child’s negative behavior much more quickly and permanently from a trauma-informed response than from a punitive response for sure.”
At the new Ron Estabillo Clubhouse, the Boys and Girls Club also hopes to develop programming for high school students, like science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM), and college and career readiness, as well as bring back the Back a Youth Night for adult community members to come and mentor kids, she said.
Currently scheduled for March 30, the Back a Youth Night will match an adult with a youth in the community where they will play games and participate in club activities. Dinner and raffle prizes will be included, White O’Neill said.
“Kids need to see other adults and get to know how people made their careers, how they transitioned from being a kid to being an adult,” she said. “Mentorship is a part of building a strong community; we want as many members as possible to show they care and respect and appreciate what we’re doing for kids.”
Enroll youth up to age 18 at the new Estabillo Clubhouse by visiting centralcoastkids.org and click the “join” button, or register in person at the facility’s location in LeRoy Park. Direct questions to (805) 291-0869.
• The Santa Maria Public Library recently received grant funding from Lyda Hill Philanthropies in support of gender equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The $4,000 If/Then Gender Equity Engagement Grant will be used to create a bilingual display highlighting female scientists. The installation will be featured for one year, which began Jan. 27, in the Teen Zone at the library. In addition, the library added family program take-home packs featuring a series of six engineering activities that will be offered biweekly at all library branch locations through March. Direct questions to the library’s youth services division, (805) 925-0994, Ext. 8564.
Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor wrote this week’s Spotlight. Reach her at [email protected].