The year of 2020 has been a constant whirlwind of obstacles for the majority of the world. To stay afloat, families, organizations and businesses have had to make adjustments to plans in order to progress.

Over the course of the year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County has taken initiative to reinvent their educational goals and provide a variety of remote and in-person opportunities for students across Mercer County.

Early in the year, the organization reconstructed their after school locations to help streamline the delivery of their service in response to the aggressive part-time salary increases that was implemented due to the recent NJ wage law changes. In addition, the Clubs launched two new focused program initiatives – Reading for Success (RFS) and Social-Emotional, which were running smoothly for the first two months of the year.

Once March 13, 2020 hit, the Boys & Girls Clubs were forced to stop operations when news of the COVID-19 virus arrived and it began to spread throughout the state. Quickly, staff pivoted their plans to provide remote learning and cascaded out supplemental learning resource information to families.

While providing these resources to students and their families, the Clubs also took initiative to educate themselves on remote and distance learning through virtual workshops and seminars. Some of the workshop were on topics such as safety and cleaning, anticipated program guidelines for social distancing and HR policies.

Still early in the transition, the Boys & Girls Clubs also began working on fundraising initiatives to raise funds for expanded services, more staff and new supplies and equipment. All of the effort put forth by the Clubs early on in the year were to ensure a safe reopening for both staff and students.

In the summer, beginning June 22, 2020, the Boys & Girls Clubs reopened their summer program where they served 200 community youth. The summer program offered not only an essential child care service for working parents, but also a safe place for students who were struggling through the hardships of remote learning to go to.

As the fall school semester began in September of this year, the Boys & Girls Clubs had to cater to the variations of remote learning that schools in the county implemented for students of all ages. The Clubs moved to an out of school and after school schedule that operated from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The heavy shift from an after school program to a 50 hours a week, all-day program, pushed the Boys & Girls Clubs to serve a wider range of students. The Trenton Club location is currently serving 230 at-risk youth daily. As a goal, the Club is hoping to help 250 to 275 students by filling empty enrollment slots for middle schools in the area.

Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, more than 600 youth members participated in the Clubs after school program at four locations. Over 200 of those students were middle school students in grades 5-8.

Monday through Friday, the Clubs transported teens from Ewing, Lawrence and Trenton High Schools to their Spruce Street Community Center for social, recreational and educational drop-in programs. Every teen had access to a healthy snack each day and dinner each night. Throughout the year, the Clubs served more than 7,800 snacks to teens and 7,800 dinners.

The Boys & Girls Clubs ran a similar program at their Centre Street facility for middle school teens from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. City bus stops at local middle schools, their Spruce Street community center and key landmarks in the city, helped to provide transportation to the Club for middle schoolers. All middle schoolers had access to the Clubs free dinner program. Through the program, the Clubs served 5,200 meals to middle school teens.

Although the year brought obstacles and challenges for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County, their fast-paced response to the unexpected pandemic provided the community with essential educational and learning experiences.