ALBANY — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany held their fifth annual Big Blue Bus Tour on Thursday, allowing members of the public to familiarize themselves with what the organization has to offer.

The bus stopped at three locations, the Jane Willson Unit, the Jefferson Street Unit and the club at Thornton Park.

Witnessing children play shows the potential, but the club does not solely offer a place for them to play.

Children are at the centers from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they are learning every step of the way. What may seem like a long time to an adult is just a short time of pure enjoyment for youngesters.

“There’s just so many things that kids can come and enjoy a full day at the Boys and Girls Club,” Area Director Jason Belk said.

Walking through the different centers, character is noticed within the organization. And that is one thing Belk said the organization surrounds itself with.

“We have three outcome measures that we try to meet everyday,” he said. “The (measures) are academic success, good character and citizenship, and the other is healthy lifestyles.”

Belk said there are numerous ways children are able to show the three measures of success because they are presented with the opportunity.

A quick fun fact to add is that when the boys and girls play a game of pool, the centers offer only one stick per game to allow the children to experience character building through the use of sharing with one another.

At the clubs, children also learn through behavioral outcomes and academic activities.

“With the STEM projects, we show (the children) what it will be like if they were to make a career out of what they enjoy most,” Director of Resource and Marketing Samala Carrington said.

“Our graduation rate for kids that attend the Boys and Girls Club that plan on graduating high school is 93 percent,” Belk said.

Because the organization’s graduation rate is so high, Belk said their expectations of success are set even higher and that they offer year-long classes at the club to expose children to the different avenues they can take.

There is more to explore when it comes to the club. Carrington said children adapt quickly to their environment and progress further when there is a mentor around to show them the steps to life.

“I think (the children’s) reaction to their mentors are positive,” she said. “We try to pair (the children) up with mentors that will be around for a while because the kids do get attached to the mentors.”

Belk said the increase in progress the boys and girls show at the center is mostly credited to CEO Marvin B. Laster because he devotes his time and energy in making sure the children are getting the best structural experience out of the club.

“Our goal here is to enable all young people who need us most, to reach their full potential and becoming productive, caring, and responsible citizens,” Belk said.

The organization has a special treat for the public to enjoy on Thursday. Carrington calls it the “End of Summer Celebration,” and it is from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at club located at 1309 N. Jefferson St.

For more information about becoming a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany or about the celebration, individuals can stop by any of the three locations.

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