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Lori Escobar El Toro Boys & Girls Club By Crystal Han T here’s a jubilant air inside the Lori Escobar El Toro Boys and Girls Club as kids gather around to receive instructions. They listen intently to their unit director and then rush into groups to complete their assigned task. Laughter and playful jeers quickly flood the room and spill into the halls. These kids are having such a great time that they may not even realize they’re learning important lessons that will shape their futures. The Boys and Girls Club has always made it their mission to inspire and empow- er young people to realize their full potential and become productive, responsible, and caring adults. They do this by focusing on the 5 core values of the club: Education, Arts and Cultural Enrichment, Technology, Sports, and Life Skills. During the school year, kids are encouraged to become very academic and involved. It is important that they develop good habits like listening in class, asking questions , building good literacy skills, and doing their homework. Each day after school the kids start off with Power Hour, a time where they do their homework, read, and study. Then they have an hour of organized games that gets them running and exercising. Next, the kids are separated into age groups, where they focus on the core area of the day. The club sets very realistic goals for its members. If kids are getting C’s and B’s, the next year they’re encouraged to try for all B’s. If they have all 40 B’s, then the next year they need to try for A’s and B’s. These steps help the kids suc- ceed and gain confidence. No matter how they do, the most important thing is that they tried their hardest. “Give it all you’ve got, one hundred percent. You might not get the results that you want, but you’ll know you tried your best,” says the club’s site director, Alban Diaz. Maintaining a strong sense of self is also very important to the Boys and Girls Club. They have designed programs like Smart Girls, which teaches girls to maintain their own sense of identity. Girls learn not to be influenced by what the media says they should look and act like, and that the most important thing is to be themselves. For boys, they have the Passport to Manhood program, which teaches boys that a true man doesn’t join gangs or get into fights, he is respectful and takes care of responsibili- ties. Boys learn that going to school, getting good grades, and helping their family is a real reflection of how a man should behave. To reward the hard work their kids do during the school year, the Boys and Girls Club have a summer program packed with fun activities. They still work on the 5 core areas, but the focus is more on having a great time. Every year, the staff tries to make it the best summer ever. For Site Director Alban Diaz, there’s no question that the club yields positive results. Alban started coming to the Boys and Girls GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 club when he was in the 4th grade and he continued all the way up to junior high. He had seen older members come to work for the club and so he asked for a job and was hired, a gift that he paid forward. Four members of his staff are people whom he has helped since they were in the 4th grade. “We know what we’re trying to do here because we all came from here. We’ve seen how they helped us out,” Alban explains. He and his staff have helped dozens of kids turn their lives around and become successful. Just this year, one of their mem- bers, Armando Banuelos , was accepted to Stanford University! The Boys and Girls Club always wel- comes help. The club needs homework tutors and people who have the expertise and ability to get kids interested in science. They also need coaches for football, soccer, and basketball. People can also contribute by doing special events. A childhood is a precious thing that only comes around once. The dedicated staff at the Boys and Girls Club see each other and the kids as one big family. Their top prior- ity is that the kids are happy and on the right track. “You can see how the kids come in here and they respect the staff and the building. If you go out and see what they’re doing, you can see the joy on their faces. They’re smiling the whole day. For me, that’s giving a kid an amazing childhood,” Alban says.