After-School Special: Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante, Calif., offers young people a 14,000-square-foot facility where they shoot baskets, use computers, get homework help, and do arts and crafts after school. It is also a place to discuss dreams, problems and life in general.

That’s where the SUCCESS Foundation’s SUCCESS for Teens program comes in. Like other Boys & Girls Clubs, El Sobrante’s programs include the 10-week Career Launch and College Bound initiatives. These are particularly vital because each day the club serves some 150 kids whose families have struggled with violence, gangs or drugs. After SUCCESS for Teens supporter Don Kirby of True Life Cos. introduced the club’s executive director, Billy Zeier, to the foundation’s curriculum, Zeier immediately grasped the program’s value in encouraging kids to set life goals. SUCCESS for Teens provides ways to engage kids in thought-provoking discussions, helping them create a plan to achieve their goals as well as resist peer pressure to engage in harmful or illegal behavior.

So when Zeier’s staff asked kids, “What does success mean to you?” they were taking a page out of the SUCCESS for Teens facilitator’s guide.

“We just started a conversation so we could start fleshing out some of the things that they wanted to be when they grew up,” Zeier says. “This is really important, because sometimes kids, especially at the teen age, are starting to get a little bit more aware of who they are and their abilities. They’re trying to figure out what’s going to work for them when they get older.”

The Boys & Girls Club and SUCCESS for Teens agendas fit together easily without overlap. SUCCESS for Teens “gives us more depth to our programming,” Zeier says. “I like SUCCESS for Teens because it really helps flesh out the philosophy, the attitude, the habit part of things that you need to have in order to be successful. I think it really meshes well with our other action-based programs that are a little bit more based in ‘do this, do that’ and ‘get this done.’ They work very well together.”

SUCCESS for Teens is a self-contained program centered on the SUCCESS for Teens book—free to qualifying programs. Written in kids’ own voices, it inspires teens to find and develop leadership qualities within themselves. While it isn’t designed specifically to motivate kids to stay in school, that’s a message that naturally flows from the emphasis on character and achieving personal goals. A facilitator’s guide like the one Zeier used can help ignite meaningful group discussions.

As supporters such as Kirby spread the word about the SUCCESS for Teens program, organizations that work with at-risk kids find its messages—written by young people—to be relevant and exciting. The nonprofit SUCCESS Foundation funds the program, distributing materials in print, audio and online at You can help with a tax-deductible donation; as little as $25 can sponsor an entire classroom. For other details, visit the website.

For more information about the SUCCESS for Teens program, contact Leah McCann of the SUCCESS Foundation ( at 940-497-9700 or [email protected] Donors and leaders using the program can contact McCann to be featured in the magazine.


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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