The Biggest Shed in Skagit Valley

“What is in a watershed?” Mount Vernon Boys & Girls Club members pondered this question recently during a visit from the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. Kids suggested objects as small as insects and as large as mountains only to find that all of those objects can be found in the Skagit Watershed, the region that feeds into and affects the Skagit River. As one member commented, “that must be a really big shed!

The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County includes helping youth become caring and responsible citizens. For the kids at the Mount Venture Boys & Girls Clubs, they learned more about responsible citizenship by playing games. The constructed their own “river” by placing together their drawings of the Skagit River side by side to create a line. Then, Keelin Maurmann and Emily Jankowski from the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group asked each kid to pick up an item from around the room. Flanking both sides of their “river,” the kids passed all of their items to the person standing next to them until one person at the end held all of the items. The activity helped them visualize the accumulation of items in the Skagit River and helped them understand how littering affects salmon populations.

“Kids are incredibly intuitive,” says Nathan Allen, Director of STEM Initiatives for Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County. “They understand how throwing trash on the ground affects the water which affects salmon population. More importantly, they’re young enough to avoid any bad habits and to make a lifelong positive impact on the environment.”

Environmental education creates citizens who understand their impact on the world around them and helps to protect local businesses who rely on natural resources throughout the Skagit Watershed. Through educational opportunities like the visit from Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County not only help serve youth but help protect another vulnerable population, the salmon in the Skagit River.

Pop-up Library brings books to the Anacortes Club

Throughout the year, Club Members at the Anacortes Boys and Girls Club had the opportunity to spend an hour reading every day, thanks to a local partnership with the Anacortes Public Library, who were able to provide some special reading opportunities for youth through their Pop-up Library Program. The program began last summer, and was so popular that they decided to continue into the school year.

Children’s Librarian Leslie Wilson, visits the Anacortes Boys & Girls Club on a regular basis to host the Pop-Up Library. The system uses a new web-based library catalog that makes it possible to take library services out into the community.

Wilson said that they started doing Pop-up Libraries in May at a STEM event at the Middle School. And that it is surprisingly easy. “All we need is internet access. The Pop-up Library enables us to check out books, place holds, provide member info, issue new library cards, and more,” she said. Wilson explained that thru their weekly visits to the Club during the summer, they were able to streamline the process.  “The program has really improved. It helped us figure out what worked and what didn’t, really fine tune the program.”

The Pop-up library was also very popular with the kids. “What I liked about the pop-up library was that we got to check out books without going to the real library. I also liked hearing the different stories Leslie read to us,” said Club Member Alaea Cerrillo. The Boys and Girls Club has a library of books that the kids can choose from, but the Pop-up Library expanded their choices.

“I could tell how excited the kids were, because of how patiently they waited to check out their books. We run choice-based programs at the Club, so there are activities going on simultaneously. Lots of kids were choosing to look at the library books that were brought in and check out new ones for next time.” said the Club’s Marketing Director, Tammy Findlay.

Wilson explained, “The Club members really enjoyed being able to request books. It was great seeing how excited kids were getting them. It also helped us really tailor the program to meet the kid’s interest.” Some of the most popular requests included Guinness Book of World Records, Pete the Cat, and graphic novels.

Sedro Woolley Club Teen Aspires to Practice Law

Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County’s 2017 Youth of the Year Paula Banda has had many opportunities to share her Club story publicly, as part of her journey within the Youth of the Year Program. Part of her story includes her goals for the future—to attend Harvard and practice Immigration Law. Several local lawyers heard her speech and reached out to help with career advice. Recently, Paula and a small group of teens from the Sedro-Woolly Boys & Girls Club had a chance to meet these lawyers to learn about their practice.

Laura Riquelme, who works as public defender for Skagit County, and has recently served as a judge as well, gave Paula and a few of her friends a tour of the Skagit County courthouse. She gave the Club members an overview of the work she does, how it affects the community, and how she decided to pursue a career in law. She also shared some great insights on the difference between being a judge and being a lawyer.

Joseph Bowen was born and raised in Skagit Valley. After law school he came back to the area and eventually opened up his own law practice. He took the time to sit down with the Woolley teens and talk about motivation and determination. He detailed the journey he took from Skagit County to Harvard to law school at UW back to Skagit County and encouraged the Boys & Girls Clubs members to set their goals high.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County would like to thank everyone involved for taking the time to share their career knowledge with the Club members.

Youth of the Year & Beyond 

On March 20th, Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County’s 2017 Youth of the Year, Paula Banda traveled to Olympia with her advisor and Sedro-Woolley Club Teen Director, Patrick Dougher, along with other Club staff to participate in the Washington State Youth of the Year Program. Meeting up with the Youth of the Year candidates representing other Club organizations throughout the state, the weeklong program is focused on celebrating the incredible leaders that each candidate has become, and their personal journey to the competition. The Youth of the Year participants work closely together throughout the development process, sharing exclusive experiences, over the days in Seattle and Olympia. Reflecting on the her time spent on the trip, Paula remarked, “I loved how close I got with the other candidates. It felt like we’d all been friends for years.”

Paula and her new Youth of the Year friends attended a breakfast reception at the Governor’s mansion, where she spent time talking with Senator Kirk Pearson and Governor Jay Inslee. After a tour of the Capitol Building, the candidates traveled together to Seattle to prepare for the Youth of the Year competition, stopping at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the exclusive opportunity to meet renowned Bobby Wagner, of the Seahawks. The teens were also treated with a stop at Tumwater Family Fun Center for relaxation, before heading to the Space Needle where they practiced their speeches and brushed up on interview skills. A limo ride to Dick’s Drive-In for dinner rounded out an incredible day. “Overall, the Youth of the Year program is a rich experience for teen members, balanced with opportunities for growth and a lot of fun. The Washington State Boys & Girls Club Association really lays out the red carpet to make the participants feel special.” says CEO Ron McHenry. 

Given the focus on Character & Leadership development throughout the entire Youth of the Year process, the remaining time spent in Seattle was focused on practicing speeches, and engaging in interviews. “I used to feel really shy about talking to professionals, but now I feel a lot more comfortable with it, because of the tips I learned at Youth of the Year,” Paula reflected. Judges of the whole competition come from state and regional industry leadership, community organizations, elected positions, and represent a wide snapshot of the collaboration that makes for thriving communities in Washington. The judges read all the applications and personal essays for each candidate, they listen to speeches, and they conduct panel interviews of the teens. The arduous process helps better prepare all the teens for post-high school plans, and gives them an introduction to a wide range of career paths available.

It was an inspiring night on March 23rd, with over 300 in attendance to hear each candidate’s speech at the Washington State Youth of the Year Dinner at the Bell Harbor Event Center in Seattle. Paula’s speech relayed her struggle with bullying and finding the right place to fit in. It was at the Club that she found that safe place to learn and grow. A child of immigrant parents, the scare of deportation of her family hit Paula at a young age, and it was through overcoming that obstacle, with the help of the Club, that she set her goals high for success. 

Every youth’s speech was a testament to how the Boys & Girls Club played a pivotal role in their life. The stories were personal, some with great hardship, and some with an acceptance that hardship may come– but they had confidence and skills to stay focused on their goals and dreams.  Gee Scott, ESPN Announcer and Emcee, joked that after hearing about their goals for the future, he needed to “go home and re-evaluate his life.” Paula had full support from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County with many guests in attendance; her family, Club staff, and fellow Club members in the program, there to learn and gain from the experience. Director of Operations, Manny Smith remarked, “I know its not easy for these kids to get up and tell their personal story. It would be difficult for anyone. They meet these high expectations, and surprise us, and I think, even surprise themselves with what they are able to accomplish.”

Since being named Youth of the Year last January, Paula Banda has been very busy, speaking at various Civic and Club events, while maintaining her schoolwork, where she also participates in orchestra. In her 7 years as a Club member, Paula has been an eager participant in Club programs and is often volunteers at Club events and fundraisers to lend a hand. Paula now looks to her future. As a young Youth of the Year, she still has High School to look forward to. She plans to enroll in Running Start at Skagit Valley College, with the goal of reaching Harvard, and a degree in Immigration Law, with many in her community eager to support her in her endeavors.

Spring Gardening Fun at Sedro-Woolley

When Club member Nathan exclaimed, “Ready, Set, Go!”, nothing happened. Two snails sat entirely still, safely tucked as much as they could possibly tuck, inside their protective shells. A handmade race course drawn out on paper lay underneath them, complete with obstacles and a finish line. Maybe a nudge would help, they thought, but still no response. Then someone came bounding in, “I found another ladybug!” and the snails were scooped up to be deposited back outside, while the group continued on in their critter search.

This is the kind of spontaneous fun that can be cultivated on any day after school at the Sedro-Woolley Boys & Girls Club. This group was participating in gardening club with long-time volunteer, Cookson Beecher on one of the first warm spring days of the year. They observed soil temperatures, the progress of the returning flowers, and the vegetables they had started from seed. A barely discernible pea sprout was discovered poking through the dirt, ready to climb its trellis, with a well established bunch of chives in the corner nearby. Then the first ladybug was found and the search shifted to examining all types of bugs and spiders.

The Club members in Sedro-Woolley cultivate flowers and a vegetable garden every year with generous donations of seeds, starts, and compost, with volunteers lending their time and expertise. They love to create flower arrangements as gifts and to beautify their Club. They learn about new foods and healthy eating, through tending their vegetables, and experience the satisfaction of seeing their hard work materialize into treats like zucchini bread.

Anacortes Club Leaders Help Improve Games Room For All

On any given day at the Anacortes Boys & Girls Club, you’ll see the games room full of Club members playing bumper pool, foosball, or a variety of other board games. Recently the space received an upgrade thanks to Club members repairing and improving equipment as a part of its Torch Club program.

Torch Club is one of the flagship programs of Boys & Girls Clubs in which members learn to enrich their lives and the lives of others through service, leadership, and by demonstrating good character. Each Club is chartered, elects officers, and works to implement activities that serve the Club and community.

At the beginning of the year, the Anacortes Torch Club established the goal of helping to upgrade the Clubs games room. “The equipment in the games room was starting to break,” said Torch Club President Hannah Stewart. “We wanted everyone to have a more fun time in the games room with better things.”

In December, the Torch Club organized and began its fundraising efforts with a sweet bake sale. Club members, families, and community members helped raise over a hundred dollars for their cause of upgrading the games room. Torch Club Member Madison Johnson said “I’m glad we did the bake sale. It was really fun because I like baking but we also were able to raise a lot of money. I hope we can do some other fundraiser again soon!”

In January, the group used the funds raised to purchase supplies and this past month, they were able to install the new equipment. Club members installed new foosball men, score trackers, and fixed the legs of the table. The bumper pool table received new bumpers and pool cues. The Torch Club was also able to get some new equipment for the air hockey table, new board games and cards, as well as give the room a good cleaning.

“The new stuff is great!” said Club member Loden Whitton. “Bumper pool looks shiny and brand new. The new sticks make the game even better.”

Supporting the efforts of these young leaders were resources directed through a grant from the Jack and Shirley McIntyre Foundation. With a recent significant investment received from the philanthropic organization, Clubs throughout Skagit County were allocated funds that were to be youth-directed for improvements. For Anacortes, this was manifest in re-felting and maintenance on the pool tables.

The Anacortes Torch Club meets every Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Club Director’s Office. It is open for all members aged 9-13 to join. For its next big project, the Torch Club is planning on providing homework help for members as well providing service to more community members.

Volunteer Inspires Youth through Photography

Richard Raymond started volunteering with Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County in early October this year. With the expansion of the Clubs into the Mount Baker & LaVenture middle schools, volunteer help is greatly appreciated and adds to the richness of the Club experience. Richard immediately began teaching photography at the Mount Baker Club. Fortunately, the Clubs had already purchased camera equipment through a grant from BestBuy. Because camera’s are Nikon DSLRs, it gives the members quite a range of control over their photos. Club members start out by learning the very basic workings of the cameras, then work on composition and choosing subject matter.

Mentored by well-known photographer, Lee Mann, Richard loves to share about his own experience of practicing photography out in nature. He reminisced about a day on the middle fork, Nooksack river, where he spotted an eagle on a low crag. He was able to sneak up fairly close, but eventually the great bird took flight. “When an eagle takes off to fly they drop at first because they are so large. The force of the wind from it’s wings took my hat off.” That was a great shot, but, he pointed out that if his wife, who was watching from afar, would have had a camera, she would have had the better photo. He then bought his wife a camera and now they enjoy the sport together.

Richard was recently awarded “Rookie Volunteer of the Year” at a Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County awards event. “I think he was so surprised by the award, but it is very well deserved,” says Tammy Findlay, the Club’s Director of Marketing & Stewardship. “I’m so impressed with how Richard leads youth. This program gives them a great sense of accomplishment. Club members are taking pride in their work, and striving to improve and learn. They are engaged and eager. Richard’s passion for photography is inspiring.”

Richard just finished up a class at the Mount Baker Club and is now teaching a new group at the LaVenture Club which will run for 8 weeks. Then he will be back at Mount Baker for an Advanced Photography session with 5 Club members from the original class. They will cover the inner workings of the camera more in-depth, and advanced settings, as well as new photography techniques.

Sedro-Woolley Cooking Club for Teens

On Wednesdays this last spring, teenage members of the Sedro-Woolley Boys & Girls Club were given the opportunity to participate in a special Cooking Club. Thanks to the efforts of volunteer Patricia Stephens, and the Helping Hands Food Bank, the Woolley Teens learned how to make a variety of unique, interesting, and often, healthy dishes. 

“I liked learning new things to make for when I’m at home, because I didn’t know how to make most of that stuff” said Brandon Deleon “It was really fun to learn new things to bake and cook.”

Some of the dishes they created included homemade pop tarts, using jelly and pie crust, and spaghetti made with squash. They were shown how to make homemade pizza and introduced to bread pudding, which most of them had never even heard of before, but now love. 

Great programs like Cooking Club are made possible because of the support of the community and awesome volunteers like Patricia. The Club is extremely grateful for their support. Cooking Club will be taking a short break over summer but the teens are looking forward to its return in the fall.

SMART Girls of Sedro-Woolley

On Monday, May 2nd, the SMART Girls of the Sedro-Woolley Boys & Girls Club were treated to four guest speakers all offering different insights on college and career paths.

Jill Gatto from Skagit Valley Hospital talked to the girls about what a day in the life of a surgical assistant looks like. The girls asked stimulating questions about prosthetics, how many patients she attends to each day, and what her work schedule looks like.

Vanessa Jones, a math teacher from Sedro-Woolley High School, stressed the importance of higher education and the joys of college, and how all that hard work and effort pays off. She even challenged the girls with some math problems!

Jackie Dexter talked to the group about how she has used her science degree from WWU to create a farm at her home. She shared information about how she is growing plants, creating a pond, and all the animals currently living on the farm.

Sigrid Williams of Aqua-Terr Systems Inc. talked to the girls about her job as an associate biologist, and how she uses science in her job. She also talked about scuba diving and teaching Discover Scuba classes with Gone Diving out of Bellingham.

It was a science and math-filled day for the girlstwo fields that are sometimes intimidating to young women- but with these guest speakers, it was something that the girls were able to see as a possibility for them, too!

All guest speakers engaged the SMART girls by asking what their career aspirations were, what they liked most about school, and where they might like to go to college. Hearing from engaging guest speakers showed the girls about available career paths, how one can use their education in different fields and careers, and that college can be a challenging path with great rewards after graduation. The girls felt empowered, encouraged, and shared stories and laughs. All left with information from each guest speaker resulting in a great success for this year’s SMART Girls Career Fair.

Keystone Club teaches the value of community service.

Teenage members of the Sedro-Woolley Boys & Clubs get the opportunity to do more than just hang out after school. Taking ownership of their Club, and effecting positive change, members engage in Keystone Club. This national program of Boys & Girls Clubs focuses on service and leadership, and provides the opportunity to get involved throughout the community.

Every Friday afternoon President Shaely Spilker, Vice President Jazzelle Elias, Treasurer Hallie Simpson and any Club member who wants to be involved meet and discuss upcoming service projects, fundraisers and ways to improve the Teen Center. A staff advisor participates in meetings but it is the members who ultimately decide what projects to focus on. Recently they rose over $600 for the Boys & Girls Club between two fundraisers, the True Value anniversary and Blast from the Past, both held in Sedro-Woolley. Coming up, they will be participating in a hamburger fundraiser at the Sedro-Woolley Eagles on the 4th of July. Earlier in the school year, they also had the opportunity to sell programs at Century Link field during the Seahawks vs. Cowboys game as part of the Spirit of 12 program, which allows non-profits to raise funds through program sales. 

Beyond just fundraisers, the Sedro-Woolley Keystone Club also does community service projects. This year they have done several projects with the Skagit Land Trust pulling ivy and helping to plant trees, including participating in their Earth Day event. They are currently planning on having a book drive during summer vacation and hope to do a food drive during the next school year.