Boys & Girls Clubs aim to keep kids off the streets

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - More than ten players stood on each side of the net, ranging in size from tiny tykes to full-grown adults.  It only took one glance to see Monday's volleyball game inside the Boys and Girls Club's Andrew Johnson Unit was far from average. In this particular game, everybody got to play.

"Here, you just come out and participate," said Andrew Johnson Unit Program Assistant James McCullum. "It doesn't matter if you're good or sorry.  You just come out here and just play."

At Jackson Elementary School just a few streets over, the kids spent the afternoon showing off their vocal chops. Their singing competition had a winner, but everyone who was there came out on top.

These are just two of the many Boys and Girls Club locations nationwide that aim to broaden kids' horizons and keep them off the streets.

"A lot of family members can't afford after care," said Jackson Elementary Program Director Dianne McCann.  "And its a safe place for kids."

The kids at both locations agreed that they really enjoy the daily activities.

"I think it's a place where you can learn how to behave and you get to do a lot of stuff," said 10-year-old Savanna Duley.

Eleven-year-old McKayla Lee agreed.

"It's a positive place to be," she said.  "We have fun stuff here that teaches us a lot of things that we didn't know before."

McCullum said Boys and Girls Club is a lot more than just an after school program.

"I grew up in the Boys and Girls Club, so I know it really does make an impact on your life," McCullum said.  "I felt like when I wasn't at home, I had a family here."

That's something that some kids just wouldn't have otherwise.  McCullum remembers some of his fellow participants, and he thinks the program saved them from some rough experiences.

"Without the Boys and Girls Club, I think they would have made some horrible decisions," he said.  "So they'd be out in the streets doing - I don't know."

Instead, the kids in both of the units described above, and more than four million other children nationwide, are doing their homework, playing and learning things that will stay with them forever.

"Our group always has this time where we learn how to be safe, to make sure you don't get kidnapped," said Duley.  "And just staying safe when you walk home."

Fifteen-year-old Natazia Wilson agreed.

"Basically how to survive," she said.  "How to be smart about things."

The Boys and Girls Clubs are non-profit organizations that rely on donations for survival.  To donate to these units, go to, or find your local chapter at

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