The Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri offers a safe and fun place for kids after school, but it also provides an opportunity for older members to serve as mentors.
Jake Rogers, 15, has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri Cole Camp Site for three years. He started attending when his mom started working at the Club, but he soon gained a much larger role. He now serves as the site’s junior staff member, taking on the responsibilities of a Youth Development Professional.
“Sometimes it’s hard, but other days it’s easy,” Rogers said Tuesday afternoon of being junior staff. “I get to do things I never thought I’d be able to. I actually get to teach my own program, Passport to Manhood. We do a lot of projects, we do lessons but I try to make them fun so they can relate to them a little bit. Actually we’re going to start model cars next week.”
Recently Rogers’ program made safety posters, conflict resolution packets and started to build houses out of Popsicle sticks. He also helps in the third grade Power Hour room each day, assisting members with their homework.
“I decided I want to be a teacher so I figured this was the best way to get practice,” Rogers said, who wants to teach science in either middle or high school. “Science interests me. I can learn a lot of stuff I didn’t know. And science involves math too, so it’s kind of a double subject.”
Rogers’ favorite parts of the Club are classic answers one would expect to hear from an aspiring teacher, such as his favorite part of each day at the Club is “seeing a whole bunch of smiles at snack time.”
“I get to see surprised faces when I teach them something they don’t know,” he said. “… I can go from being a student to being a teacher in the afternoon and I get to plan the lessons I want to do, I get to work with kids that maybe don’t get the attention that they need.”
Site Manager Tara Walker said she asked Rogers to run the site’s Passport to Manhood program because at the time the site didn’t have any male staff members and she thought the Club members could relate better to someone younger.
“He does all the lesson plans. The kids love him,” she said. “… He actually does anything we ask him to do; he’s our go-to guy. … They really enjoy his program. He plans interesting, fun activities for them to do.”
Rogers was recognized for his dedication to the Club during the recent Youth of the Year ceremony. Rogers was selected by a panel of judges as the Teen Youth of the Year; The Club Site member Alexa Rice won the intermediate category and Horace Mann Site member Jenesis May won the elementary category.
Each Club site nominated YOY candidates in elementary, intermediate and teen categories to compete for the honor. Each of this year’s 16 candidates gave a speech about what it means to be a “Club kid” and how the organization has impacted their life.
Rogers said the experience was “really nerve-racking, but it was fun though.”
“I talked about how the Club’s affected my grades — before I started volunteering here my grades were average, and as I came here they’ve gone up a lot,” Rogers said of his remarks at the ceremony. “I talked about how I want to end bullying because that’s a big problem.
“I talked about respect, about how everybody needs more respect. I think that everyone needs respect, whether they’re poor and don’t have a home or they’re so rich they live in a mansion. It doesn’t matter, they all need respect and I stated that multiple times.”
Rogers said he was “shocked (because) there were a lot of good speeches up there” when he heard his name announced at the conclusion of the ceremony. Upon returning to the Cole Camp Site, he said he “got a lot of congratulations and hugs. A lot of hugs.” Walker said they “were all very proud of him.”
As the teen winner, Rogers will now go on to compete at the state Youth of the Year competition in April in Jefferson City.
He said he is “a lot more nervous but excited” about the chance to compete at the state level. He will be required to give another speech, and he has chosen to stick with his same speech with a few changes. He also plans to memorize as much of the speech as possible.
“He’s the guy who’s everybody’s friend. I know that sounds corny, but he is. All ages, like me down to the kindergartners,” Walker said. “He’s very responsible. I can give him a task and I don’t have to worry about checking up on him. He gets it done. No matter what we ask, no matter how big or small, he does it.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.