An honor at Woodland

Boys & Girls Club unit is recognized by state alliance for its health, lifeskills program


Natalya Bannister, center, the assistant director of the Woodland Park Boys & Girls Club, looks on as 6-year-old Elcondris McNair, right, does math homework Tuesday afternoon with the help of 6-year-old Javion Williams.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 12:09 p.m.

The Woodland Park Boys & Girls Club has received another award for the impact it is having on the community it serves.

The club received the 2011 Program Impact Excellence Award for its health and lifeskills program last week from the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs at a meeting in Captiva near Fort Myers.

Keith Blanchard, president and chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County, received the award last Friday morning at the meeting of nearly 40 Boys & Girls Clubs representing communities throughout Florida.

"We nominated several of our programs for awards, and the health and lifeskills program at Woodland Park won in that category," Blanchard said.

Earlier this year, the Woodland Park unit at 1900 SE 4th St. won a 2011 Honor Awards for Program Excellence in the character and leadership category for its "Step Up to Step Out Program" from the Boys & Girls Club of America, the most prestigious award given to the very elite of the more than 4,000 clubs throughout the nation.

Freddy Williams, southeast Gainesville area director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Alachua County, said the health and lifeskills program at Woodland Park focuses on bringing in partners from the community to help educate its students about developing healthy eating habits, making healthy life choices and becoming more aware of themselves. Blanchard and Williams also credited their partnerships with Peaceful Paths, a certified domestic abuse network based in Gainesville that serves several area counties, and the Gainesville Housing Authority with being instrumental in helping them impact the lives of their students.

Morgan Moeller, director of violence prevention at Peaceful Paths, said the agency began to work with students at the club two years ago, teaching them how to have healthy relationships.

Jhawaan Johnson, a 17-year-old senior at Gainesville High School, said he has learned a lot from the weekly sessions taught by staff from Peaceful Paths during the past two years.

"I've learned how to deal with situations differently and I've learned not to fight when somebody says something to me, but to talk it out," he said. "It has also helped my dating life."

Blanchard and Williams also said the success it is having at the Woodland Park club would not be possible without the help of the housing authority. They both said a third of their funding comes from the housing authority via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Winning this award shows that our relationship with the Gainesville Housing Authority and our community partners is working," Williams said.

Williams also said Woodland Park won the award this year because it was able to demonstrate clear, measurable and documented results from its efforts to educate its students about issues dealing with living healthy and life skills.

He said a major component of the health and lifeskills program, and all of the core programs at Boys & Girls Club throughout the nation, is a very structured pre-assessment and post-assessment file that is kept on each student.

"The pre- and post-assessment results show a lot," Williams said. He said the club is able to document how its students' attitudes about community service, eating healthy, living healthy, school and other issues are impacted by the programs.

"We track and see how their attitudes, behavior and performance improves over time," Williams said.

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