Boys & Girls Club opens in Green Lake

CELEBRATING THE opening of the Boys & Girls Club are, from left, Melissa Hilke, Ashley Bartol, Megan Beardsley, Eydie Reiser, Lisa Nelson, Bob Zache, Jason Presto and Mindy Collado. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

After school, folks in Green Lake are likely to see a parade of children in a “walking school bus” marching from Green Lake School to the Town Square Community Center.

That’s because, after months of preparation, the Boys & Girls Club has come to Green Lake. 

Nestled behind Town Square, on Mill Pond Terrace, the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area’s Green Lake site opened Tuesday, Sept. 1 for after-school programming, aimed at giving children a safe space to learn and grow.

“We’re excited to offer kids a safe place to go after school where they’re not going to be latchkey, and they don’t have to go home and stuff their face with Doritos and turn on the Xbox,” said Jason Presto, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area. “They’re going to go somewhere where they’re going to be around positive adults, making sure they’re doing their homework and getting a healthy meal in their belly.”

The site is open to children from ages 6 to 12 Mondays through Thursdays from 3:15 to 5:30 p.m. , and Fridays 3:15 to 5 p.m.  On early-release days, the Boys & Girls Club will be open from 11:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on non-school days from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

While the Boys & Girls Club recently opened, Presto noted it was a long time coming as the club launched a mentoring program in Green Lake last summer. The mentoring program was accomplished with the help of a grant from the Oshkosh Community Foundation, which also provided funding for the after-school program.

Although plans developed for a summer program in Green Lake, they ultimately fell through because of the coronavirus impacting the Boys & Girls Club’s fund-raising mechanisms. 

“We just couldn’t take on that risk during COVID with all the uncertainty and have a staff ready to put any meaningful programming together, but we were really confident the whole time about having our eyes on the start of the school year,” Presto said.

The Boys & Girls Club, along with Town Square, spent the summer readying the site for the school year. 

CHILDREN ENROLLED AT at the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area smile in front of the Town Square Community Center, which houses the club’s new after school program. Submitted photo

In late July, the organization named Megan Beardsley the Green Lake site coordinator. Beardsley joined the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area in 2017. She grew up in Appleton and holds a bachelor’s degree in human services leadership and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. 

“I’m looking forward to meeting all the new kids in the community,” Beardsley said. “There’s so many kids at Green Lake School and I’m just looking forward to building those new relationships.”

As site coordinator, Beardsley is responsible for organizing staff responsibilities and developing programming for children. 

“We have assigned days with physical activity on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she said. “We’re going to be having what we call ‘power hour,’ where we’re going to be helping with academics after school. We’re going to feed the kids as well, with a late afternoon snack.”

Beyond “power hour” tutoring/homework sessions, Beardsley noted the site utilizes a computer program called “Stride,” which is a video game that implements Common Core learning standards for children struggling with math and reading.

“On the front end, the kids are playing a video game, but behind the scenes we can go in and if a child is struggling with fractions, for example, we can make their gaming on the front end focus on helping support them in learning those fractions,” Beardsley said. 

Additionally, the site’s programs aim to provide children with leadership and character-development opportunities that expose them to a variety of ideas and cultures. 

“Those opportunities are super important because it’s all about developing kids into the best versions of themselves,” said Mindy Collado, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area. “We’re really trying to guide them to be productive members of society and care about the community that they live in.”

In terms of working with Town Square, Presto described the partnership as “a match made in heaven” due to the organizations having a longstanding relationship. 

“We have similar sensibilities, and we all want the same things for our kids and our community members,” he said. “So the partnership just seemed natural and seamless.”

Overall, Presto is thrilled to see the site open and can’t wait for the Green Lake community to better get to know the Boys & Girls Club. 

“I think It’s truly a benefit to the community, and while we understand it takes some time for our neighbors, parents and families to get to know us and what we’re all about, we will build that public trust over time,” he said. “It’s really an asset for this community and we hope that everybody comes out and leans on our programs because we want to be here forever.”