ST. JOSEPH — The Boys & Girls Club now has a spot of its own at St. Joseph High School.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor opened an onsite location at the high school on Monday and is now accepting registration for student programs. The club chose to set up a location at the school after a pilot program was introduced at E.P. Clarke Elementary School last school year.

Liji Hanny, director of operations at Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor, said the pilot program included programming known as SMART Girls and Passport to Manhood for students.

“They are evidence-based programs designed to run gender specific programs and activities to help build skills and deal with growing up,” Hanny said.

After getting positive feedback from E. P. Clarke students, Hanny said former Superintendent Ann Cardon opened discussions on the possibility of growing the club’s footprint within the district.

St. Joseph High School Principal Greg Blomgren said the district’s administration group took a tour of the Boys & Girls Club last year to get a better understanding of club programs.

“We felt there were benefits to bringing that kind of programming to the school,” Blomgren said. “We talked further about how this could become a part of what we do.”

The programming officially opened to students on Monday. However, Blomgren said Hanny and a few others began introducing themselves during lunch periods throughout this school year.

The room the club will be run out of his C216, which is one of the school’s open classrooms located near the cafeteria. Blomgren said they chose it for its proximity to the cafeteria and so it would allow for easy pickups at the back of the school for parents.

Hanny said they’ve done some programming at schools before, but they are now in the process of chartering the site with the Boys & Girls Club of America.

“We’re very excited about it. We’re just trying to establish a delivery model within the school to help students meet the challenges of the future,” Hanny said. “That’s at the core of what St. Joseph High School is about. We have a shared vision.”

Hanny said they’ll try to emulate what a normal club looks like in the classroom, at the school.

That includes providing comfortable seating and a space to play games and chat with others.

“Any time we can put additional positive adult influences in the lives of young people, it can help them face the challenges of any quick-paced and stressful environment,” Hanny said. “Sometimes kids just need to learn to breathe and be able to come up with a plan on how to move forward.

“At the end of it all, we know we’re here to support the great work that St. Joe High School is already doing.”

Blomgren said school officials plan to look back on the programming by the end of the school year to see how it meshed with students at the high school.

“It’s a pilot program, so we’re experimenting to see how it goes,” Blomgren said. “We will review everything to see what impact we’re having.”

The Boys & Girls Club is available to St. Joseph students every day for the rest of the year at C216, from after school until 6 p.m.

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