BGCSM to Honor Tony Saunders, COO of Rock Ventures with the 2019 Youth Champion Award and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation with an Early Adopter Award at 2019 Great Future Awards
Thirty-four percent of Southeastern Michigan’s youth live in poverty. Seventy percent of those youth will remain at or below poverty levels as adults. The statistics are hard to swallow but Shawn H. Wilson, president and chief executive officer of theBoys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan’s (BGCSM), has not only digested them he’s working to combat them. Wilson has dedicated his time and attention to reconceptualizing the Boys & Girls Club purpose to encourage greater community impact.
“We had to look at the big picture,” said Wilson. “We service about 15,000 kids annually. That puts us in a unique space where we are not only giving them a safe space to go after school, we can also provide them access to skills that will help them move up the economic ladder.”
It is with that mission in mind that Wilson and his team decided to reimagine the Boys & Girls Club experience. The “makeover” started with Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus (Dauch club), a 30,000-square-foot club that boasts a music and video production studio funded by rapper Big Sean’s Sean Anderson Foundation. Plans also include a barber shop/salon, a test kitchen, laundromat for community use and an innovation lab where young people can learn everything from coding to 3D printing. There is also an area for pop up shops where kids can sell their creations thereby teaching business related skills like marketing and sales while also encouraging entrepreneurship.
“Our mission is to create a world-class experience for our youth, so we started talking with the community about what that would look like,” Wilson said.
However, the BGCSM is not stopping at the youth. They’ve taken things a step further by creating a co-working space where parents and adults in the community can start or work on their own small businesses.
The Dauch club’s new adult memberships, co-working space and career pathway programs are all part of a pilot site launch spurred by community stakeholders. Wilson hopes to reimagine all eight of the BGCSM stand-alone centers and the ones that are school-based. In order to do this they need to raise some serious money.
Over the next three years, BGCSM aims to raise $15 million to reimagine the Club experience for youth and their families. To date, BGCSM has raised over $5 million toward that goal. The grant from Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation will match $1 for every $2 raised.
The BGCSM’s 2019 Great Future Awards will take place Thursday, December 12, 2019. The end of year event celebration spotlights outstanding youth and the community that supports their future. One such organization supporting the organization is the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, which will receive the first-ever early adopter award and announce a $2 million matching grant to BGCSM. The event will take place at the Garden Theater, 3929 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201 and is presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
“The Early Adopter Award was created in 2019 to recognize partners who are willing to invest in new, innovative and bold ideas early in the process,” said Shawn H. Wilson, BGCSM president & CEO. “They are more than funders; they are thought partners and champions who recognize the need to evolve in order to consistently meet community needs. We are excited to recognize the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.”
“Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan has truly taken a bold step in reimagining what recreation and afterschool programming could look like to better serve today’s youth,” said Jim Boyle, vice president of programs and communications at the Wilson Foundation. “Their innovative and multi-generational approach has great potential to be a driver of economic mobility not only for youth, but also their families and surrounding community. We’re proud to help provide this lift to their campaign and get them closer to their funding goal.”
Another award recipient is the Michigan Chronicle’s 2013 40 under 40 honoree and 2019 Men of Excellence Vanguard Game Changer awardee, Tony Saunders. Saunders is the operations officer at Rock Ventures and will be receiving the Youth Champion Award. This award honors an outstanding advocate that provides opportunities for youth to reach their full potential. Saunders, who hails from the Eastside of Detroit, has served as the emergency manager for the city of Benton Harbor, Mich., and has launched a $25,000 scholarship and internship program for graduating seniors at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. His commitment to youth spans throughout the state of Michigan.
“As a former Club kid, I am always excited to see other alumni give back to the Boys & Girls Clubs and the communities where they were raised,” says Hiram Jackson, BGCSM Board Chair. “Tony is a very successful professional in the Detroit business community. He has never forgotten the lessons he learned in the Holden Building on the east side of Detroit and is a perfect example of why it is important for our Club kids to see how our alumni become successful adults and major contributors to the community.”
Saunders takes his Club experiences and passes it along to the youth of today. “I am very honored to receive this award,” he said. “I joined the Boys & Girls Club at a very young age because my parents worked and needed some place for me to go in the summer. As a kid, I saw it as a place to run around and play,” he recalled. “It didn’t dawn on me until recently when I was talking to a group of kids how many lessons you learn there and use as an adult such as conflict resolution skills and learning respectful interactions. It was a very fulfilling experience.”
Many adults have similar fond memories of their time spent at their Boys & Girls club but that experience from the 93-year-old community institution is being reconstructed for a new generation of young people and their families.
To see more of what the BGSCM is doing for the community or to donate, visit BGCSM.org