Massena Boys and Girls Club helping local youth in variety of ways
Sunday, June 16, 2019 - 5:23 pm

Playing foosball at the Massena Boys and Girls Club are, from left, Joseph Latimore, Kamryn Jandrew, and Jayce Belile. They are among the 70 daily members that participate at the after-school club for students in grades 2-12. North Country This Week photo

BY CHERYL SHUMWAY

North Country This Week

MASSENA --The lives of about 200 Massena youth are being enriched, thanks to the Massena Boys and Girls Club.

Students in grades 2-12 participate after school in a variety of recreational, learning, and leadership activities. They receive help with homework, play indoor and outdoor games, work in the computer center, grow plants, and learn to cook, among other activities. Guest speakers and field trips are also part of the program.

“The club gives a safe place to be after school, especially with the rise of drugs and crime,” said Director Zachary Monroe, now finishing his first year there. “The club is a long-term investment in the community. It teaches community engagement, character building, and advances quality of life.”

“The club has three main goals: academic success, health and wellness, and leadership,” he said.

Arriving from school at 3 p.m., members receive a healthy snack, and enjoy foosball, pool, video games, playing with dollhouses, and hanging out with friends.

Then age-based groups spend time on homework and educational computer programs, physical activity, and arts and crafts.

Monroe said they also participate in leadership classes “to promote social, emotional, and team-building skills.”

In addition to the director, the club has five part-time youth development professionals, a part-time assistant, and five active volunteers. Two retired librarians operate the on-site library.

Guest speakers have discussed such topics as career options, drug education, martial arts, and professional football. Also part of the program are local and out-of-area field trips.

Monroe said he was excited about the new give-back-to-the-community program, where member volunteers helped residents with snow shoveling and cleanup activities. He said the boys and girls were excited to actively help out as a way to thank the community for their support.

Local businesses and donations fund about half of the program’s yearly cost, said Monroe. Alcoa, Arconic, Massena Rotary Club, SeaComm, Community Bank, BJ’s Club and the Massena Elks Lodge are among their supporters, as well as community donors.

“There has been tremendous growth in the club in the last five years,” said Monroe. “The past and current board of directors deserve a lot of credit in getting the club to where it is today.” Mayor and former police chief Timmy Currier was the driving force with the steering committee in 2012, and has been the board president since the club’s start in 2014.

The club was located in Jefferson School for the first three years. In 2017, the club moved to the former St. Joseph’s Social Hall on Bayley Road, with the help of a $250,000 state grant.

Upcoming events this spring include the third annual North Country Jr. Olympics May 31, open to all North Country youth ages 14 and under.

A five-week summer program for grades 7-12 is planning two field trips per week to places such as Ottawa’s Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Adirondack hiking and kayaking, and Lake Placid ziplining.

One of Monroe’s goals next year is to add more intramural sports. He also would like to start a community mentoring program, pairing mentors with club members with similar hobbies and interests. “When kids are actively engaged, they are less apt to get involved with drugs,” he said.