Teens look on as a worker explains a surgery kit during a tour of Owens & Minor in Kings Mountain.
High school students at the Mable Hamrick Whisnant Teen Center (MHWTC) are thoroughly enjoying their summer break with lots of sports and games, field trips, swimming, ice cream and more. But they experience a lot more than just fun and games during their time at MHWTC.
"We at the Boys and Girls Club expect all participants to develop a responsible plan for their future," says Joshua Propst, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland County (BGCCC), which operates the MHWTC. "That means that they thoughtfully consider what path they will take after graduation from high school. Will it be college? A skilled trade? Or maybe a career in the military?"
To help students along in their decision making, the BGCCC arranged tours of several area colleges and universities this summer, including Johnson C. Smith, Mars Hill, High Point, North Carolina A&T, Lenoir-Rhyne and Clemson. The teens also took a tour of the Owens & Minor Distribution Facility in Kings Mountain and heard from guest speakers on a variety of career topics.
Prior to the summer, during the school year, teens attended a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) conference in Raleigh, NC, where they toured Google Fiber, the North Carolina Museum of Science and NC State University.
Middle school BGCCC students are also encouraged to start thinking about the future. Some students from those grades recently had the opportunity to visit Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs at local high schools to get a glimpse of potential job preparation classes they can take in the future.
"These activities are a part of the Boys and Girls Club's ongoing career development program designed to help students discover their interests, set realistic career goals and create a plan for achieving those goals," says Propst. "Combined with money management training and life skills training at the club, it creates a potent recipe for student success."
Propst says that when thinking about their future, some teenagers can get ideas in their head that aren't realistic or based on facts. "This program allows them to see college life firsthand and explore campuses they have only heard or read about. It allows them to see what it might be like to learn a skilled trade and enter the workforce directly out of high school or to think about potential careers in the military," says Propst. "Students can then make carefully informed decisions about their future rather than whimsical choices."
Participants agree that this aspect of the BGCCC programming is very helpful.
"Visiting colleges and learning about different careers have given me more confidence to know that my dreams can become reality and that the success I want is within my reach," says Antonio Harrison, a rising junior at Shelby High School.
"These programs at the Teen Center have really given us the opportunity to show the young people we serve that their current situation does not have to dictate their future outcomes," says Keeynan Pharr, teen outreach coordinator at the BGCCC.
The Mabel Hamrick Whisnant Teen Center serves approximately 60 teenagers per day. Located at 351 W. Sumter St. in Shelby, it is one of three youth centers operated by the BGCCC. For more information about the BGCCC, visit the club website at www.bgcclevelandcounty.org or search for "Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland County" on Facebook.
By April Hoyle Shauf
Special to Community First Media