Mentors shine through as kids at heart
By Nicole Kato
Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii (BGCH) in Nanakuli works with more than 400 area youth on a regular basis, and with a team of fewer than 10 people, it’s a tough job. In fact, many on staff view it as more of a calling and an exciting (and fun) way to exercise their passion for helping Hawaii’s children.
“You become a mentor and provide guidance for the kids,” said Claudia “Lala” Fernandez, director of programs, safety and quality control. “You have to be an authority figure, not just a friend, but one who guides them through difficult times.”
Though, Fernandez noted, working at BGCH also requires a hearty helping of silliness.
“It pushes the adults, the staff, out of their comfort zones because they have to learn how to be a kid again,” she added.
Everyone who walks through the facility’s doors immediately feels the outpouring of love that’s daily showered upon the kids. It stems from a tight-knit team that works together for the sole purpose of helping youth ages 7-17 reach their full potential.
“We target the youth that need us the most,” Fernandez said. “That can be anyone, not just troubled youth. Even straight-A students and youth from good homes or broken homes.
“It’s just having all of them be inclusive to what we do here.”
Those with a heart for Hawaii’s youth will fit right in at BGCH Nanakuli, which is looking for the perfect people to fill its youth development specialist, program assistant and youth development director positions.
Fernandez, who has been with the nonprofit for 13 years, is an alumnus of the BGCH program and has seen firsthand how the clubhouse positively impacts the lives of youth. She’s grateful for the adults who poured into her life and loves that she now gets to be a part of making that happen for others.
The organization hones in on three areas of development for its kids: academic success, healthy lifestyle and good character/citizenship.
“When they turn 18, we want them to be civically involved,” Fernandez added. “We want them to vote, give back to their communities, participate in volunteer projects. It’s about building up a community so it’s able to succeed because of them and what they’re doing in their own lives.”
BGCH Nanakuli operates out of two buildings on the Waianae Coast. Its teen center opened back in September 2008, and the Youth Education Town (YET) welcomed keiki in February 2009. In fact, the Nanakuli location is designated as an NFL YET Center — the only one in the state — and pays homage to the football governing body’s goal to encourage physical activity and healthy living. Nanakuli also is the only BGCH facility that sits on Native Hawaiian land.
For Fernandez, her coworkers are the foundation that makes both facilities run smoothly.
“If not for your front line staff and team, you’d have no programs for these kids to come to,” she explained. “These programs are built upon the staff you have in place.”
ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTOS
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COMPANY: Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii (Nanakuli)
LOCATION: 89-159 Mano Ave., Nanakuli (Nanakuli club location); 345 Queen St., Ste. 900, Honolulu (admin office)
PRESIDENT: Tim Motts
EMPLOYEES: Six full-time and three part-time
BENEFITS: Medical, dental, drug and vision insurance; paid time off pension401(a) plan, paid holidays, birthday holiday, life insurance, discounted gym membership, pet insurance and supplemental insurance
NOTEWORTHY: The Nanakuli club earned a city Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Community Service and Certificate of Appreciation for participation in community service projects in conjunction with the Honolulu Police Department; a state Senate Honorary Certificate; Gold LEED Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council; a state BOE certificate; and an American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award.