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America's young people need our help. Too many children and teens are not receiving the guidance they need to graduate from high school, to avoid the effects of violence, gangs and drugs or to become responsible adults. The statistics on high school dropout rates, obesity and violence among youth are staggering.
BGCA is asking Americans to take a stand against what is happening to children, to make a commitment to help reverse the negative trends affecting kids in communities throughout the nation and to join the Boys & Girls Club Movement in its mission of changing and saving young people's lives.
On Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, BGCA spokesperson and actor Denzel Washington asked communities and individuals to join Boys & Girls Clubs in our fight to create positive and healthy environments for youth. Washington made this appeal after an expert panel discussed the alarming figures working against youth and what each of us must do to help them. Panelists at the event included Harvard University's Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, one of the nation's preeminent child psychiatrists; Northeastern University's Dr. James Alan Fox, national youth violence expert, professor of criminal justice and author; Harris Interactive Chairman/CEO Humphrey Taylor; Club alumnus and acclaimed actor Cuba Gooding Jr.; and BGCA President and CEO Roxanne Spillett.
The panel focused its discussion on four major areas of concern noted from the Harris alumni survey, which impact America's youth today: crime and violence, high school drop-out rates, obesity and health, and crises affecting African-American males. Based on the survey results, a significant number of Boys & Girls Club alumni agree that they would not have graduated from high school, attended college, or stayed out of trouble if not for the Club.
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- Crime & Substance Abuse: Crime, drug and alcohol use are among the most serious problems affecting America's young people. Every 24 hours, more than 15,000 teens use drugs for the first time. Every two hours a youth is murdered. Every four minutes a youth is arrested for an alcohol-related crime and every seven minutes a youth is arrested for a drug crime (Crime Time by Safe Place). And in the next 24 hours, 3,506 teens will run away from home (Teen Help). Some 67 percent of Club alumni attribute their ability to avoid difficulty with the law to the influence of Club staff, and 67 percent also say the Club is where they learned how to “say no” to drugs and alcohol.
- Dropout Rates: In 2006 alone, 1.2 million teenagers did not graduate from high school in the United States -- that's 30 percent of the class of 2006. The number increases to an astonishing 50 percent among some minorities. According to a survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 88 percent of those surveyed (ages 16 to 25 in 25 urban, rural and suburban communities nationwide) had passing grades when they dropped out of school, and 91 percent of those dropouts said they knew that graduating was vital to their future success. According to the Harris Alumni Survey, some 28 percent report they would have dropped out of high school if not for the Club, plus another 51 percent achieved a higher level of education than they thought possible because of attending the Club.
- Childhood Obesity: Obesity and lack of physical fitness is also a serious issue affecting today's youth. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 16 percent of adolescents in the United States are overweight. This figure has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. Some 25 percent of young people (ages 12-21) report that they do not participate in any vigorous physical activity and 14 percent report that they don't even participate in any light to moderate physical activity. This lack of physical fitness and abundance of obesity means that 16 percent of our teens are at risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes has also increased dramatically in teens as a direct result of adolescent obesity. Of the alumni surveyed, 80 percent said that their Club experience made a positive impact on their attitude toward fitness and health, with 74 percent participating in organized sports.
- Crisis Affecting African-American Males: According to a 2006 New York Times article by Erik Eckholm, the problems affecting many African-American males have become an epidemic. Eckholm states that about one-third of black males are either awaiting trial, in jail or prison, or on probation or parole. In their lifetime, nearly one-third of black males will spend some time in jail or prison. Black males are more likely to drop out of high school, be placed in special education classes and be suspended or expelled, but less likely to be placed in gifted and talented classes. More than 50 percent of black males in inner-city schools do not graduate from high school. However, according to the Harris survey, some 73 percent of African-American male alumni said the “Club saved my life.” Most impressive – 34 percent of African-American BGC male alumni earned a four-year college degree, compared to the national rate of 16 percent.
Working together, communities and Clubs can make a dramatic difference in the lives of our young people. We can give them the tools and support they need to graduate from high school and lead healthy lives. Let's partner in our communities to generate the needed support. Our youth face serious risks in today's world, but Boys & Girls Clubs offer solutions. Lets work together to make this happen! Partner with us today!