Doing Good Work
The Boys & Girls Club of Vista Offers Life-Enhancing Programs that Help Shape the Future of the Community
Since its establishment in 1963, the Boys & Girls Club of Vista (BGCV) has become a beacon of growth and development for the kids of Vista. From academic tutoring programs to healthy cooking classes to music lessons and all different types of sports activities, BGCV offers children of all ages and all walks of life the chance to better themselves and their community. Read along as we speak with Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Vista Matt Koumaras about the different branches of BGCV, the programs they offer, and the impact their programs are having on the City of Vista.
Q & A with Matt Koumaras
Where are the Boys & Girls Club of Vista branches located?
We have four branches in Vista and Oceanside as well as running programs at six locations. Our main site is at 410 W. California Ave. in Vista. We offer a.m./p.m. school sites at Madison Middle School, Vista Magnet Middle School, and Vista Innovation and Design Academy (formerly Washington Middle School).
What kind of programs does each branch offer?
We offer life-enhancing programs that focus on academic success, healthy lifestyles, and character development for all boys and girls. We offer sports, drama classes, music lessons, and daily tutoring. Boys & Girls Clubs provide a safe place to learn and grow. Kids get help with their school work, make new friends outside of school, learn a new hobby, and have some time to “just be a kid.” For parents, it’s a benefit knowing that their child is in a safe place after school, allowing them time to work, go to school, or take care of younger siblings. For teachers, it’s a relief knowing that their students will receive extra guidance to work on their homework and prepare for tests. For the community, we help by keeping kids off the streets when school is out and invest in them with our programs to help them become strong, educated members of the workforce and future business owners.
How is the Boys & Girls Club funded?
The Boys & Girls Club of Vista is part of a national organization but is community-centered with a local board of directors. BGCV receives very little federal funds to help support programs and relies on generous support from local businesses and caring individuals to make sure no child is turned away and to hopefully reach more families that need support after school and during school breaks.
Will there be programs offered during the upcoming holiday season?
We are open year-round Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at our main site on California Ave. During the holiday season, we offer various theme weeks such as Outer Space, Hollywood, and the Olympics. These weeks feature activities that tie into the various theme weeks such as a talent show during Hollywood week. Field trips are also offered during day camps to places like the beach, Magic Mountain, Balboa Park, and trips to movie theaters. After 2 p.m., the program is free for club members and regular programs such as drama, music lessons, and recreational sports resume. Parents can find out more information about the programs through our website, through Vista Unified School District’s Peachjar e-flyers from their children’s school, or by becoming our friend on Facebook.
What types of fees are involved?
The program has an annual $50 a year membership from January to December for its main site. For day camps, it is $25 a day from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. or $100 for a week. The program is free for all members at the main site after 2 p.m. The a.m./p.m. program at school sites is $120 a month. A.m./p.m. club members receive substantially reduced rates for the club’s day camp programs. Middle school sports league program fees start from $75 and up depending on the sport and the number of games. Bus and van transportation to our California Ave. site is available for a monthly fee from elementary schools, but demand is high during the school year.
Is there financial aid offered to members?
Yes, based on financial need. A total of 51% of BGCV members live in families with household incomes of less than $50,000 a year.
What type of impact is the Boys & Girls Club of Vista having on students academically?
Our programs are being evaluated by the National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI). The NYOI uses common, credible indicators such as school attendance, reading and math proficiency, on-time grade progression, and avoidance of risky behaviors. It has pushed our club to become laser-focused on kids that need the most help. This data also measures our club members versus regional, state, and national outcomes. We are proud to report that 99% of BGCV members surveyed by the NYOI Survey Measurement are at grade level or better. 94% of Vista Club members expect to continue their education after high school graduation. Besides homework help, club members can learn how to build a robot, play chess, learn how to play guitar, act in a play, or create their own club videos through our own STP (Science and Tech Power) programs.
Please tell us more about the tutoring program offered.
We offer homework help and tutoring Monday through Thursday from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. by grade level.
What do children learn in the drama classes?
They learn basic acting techniques and receive vocal and dance coaching, as well as set design and audio-visual experience.
Please tell us more about the music lessons. What types of instruments are played?
We currently offer guitar and keyboard lessons. We hope to offer violin lessons in 2015.
What types of sports activities are offered?
We offer flag football, basketball, cross country, volleyball, baseball, soccer, and karate at our middle school leagues and at our main site.
How do the programs promote a healthy and active lifestyle?
Thanks to a strong partnership with the Vista Unified School District, we are able to provide free healthy snacks and lunches to our club members year-round. Healthy cooking classes have been led by Vista High School’s culinary arts programs as well as volunteers from Peppertree Frosty. Through our healthy lifestyle programs, all boys and girls can participate in basketball, soccer, flag football, volleyball, karate, and cross country, as well as daily recreational activities. 94% of BGCV members are physically active on a daily basis and all club members are part of a daily walking program called Miles for Smiles that helps promote healthy living. BGCV also runs the middle school sports programs which includes Madison Middle School, Vista Magnet Middle School, VIDA, Rancho Minerva Middle School, and Guajome Park Academy.
How does the club encourage character development?
Through our Torch Club and Leaders in Training programs, BGCV teaches club members how to selflessly lead and be dedicated to making the club, their school, and Vista a better place to live. We recognize club members through our weekly spirit assemblies and Member of the Month program. BGCV also offers SMART Moves classes – which focus on conflict resolution, anti-bullying, and anger management classes – to club members.
How does the Boys and Girls Club of Vista stay involved with the community?
We partner with many programs in the community including North County Solutions for Change, the Vista Community Clinic, North County Lifeline, Alta Vista Gardens, Rotary Club of Vista, and San Diego Food Bank, as well as many special community events. Cal-State San Marcos, Palomar College, and MiraCosta College are also wonderful partners that help with volunteers and programs.
Can you describe some of the club’s fundraising events and when they occur?
Our Diamond Ball is our major fundraiser and is currently held the third Saturday in May. During this event, we honor our Have a Heart for Kids Award to a local hero that dedicates his/her life to serving kids. Previous emcees for the gala have included Elena Gomez from NBC 7 News, Kimberly Hunt of Channel 10 News, and her husband, former San Diego Charger Billy Ray Smith
What are some specific items the club is in need of right now and how should they be donated?
We are in need of air conditioning, educational games and art supplies, a flat screen TV for the drama room, and baseball field maintenance. Donations can be accepted by 760-724-6606 ext. 10 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can the average household support the Boys & Girls Club of Vista?
By letting people know that we help ALL kids ages 6 through 18 and that we rely on the community’s support to keep our doors open. Even in tough economic times, we’ve been there for families when they needed our services the most since 1963.
What does event sponsorship or corporate partnership entail?
It involves name recognition at the club, banner advertising, programs, and social media, as well as perks such as VIP seating at our Youth of the Year event, Diamond Ball, and Day for Kids carnival.
How many volunteers are involved with the club?
On a daily basis, approximately ten. Throughout the entire year, we have seventy-three volunteers.
Do you have volunteers who were former Boys & Girls Club members themselves?
Yes, a few even serve on the board of directors. The current Board President Sal Cirincione is a former Youth of the Year and President Elect Dan Villasenor was one of the original members of the Boys Club in the early 1960s. Both are currently business owners in Vista and are paying it forward by helping BGCV. Another one of our volunteers went to the Boys Club of Milwaukee in 1942. He teaches poetry every Friday at our club.
What roles do the volunteers take on?
Volunteers supplement our daily youth development programs by assisting with tutoring, mentoring, recreational activities, snack program, arts and crafts, coaching, music, drama, facility maintenance, clerical work, and more. A few of our staff began as volunteers and became employees of the club because they enjoyed working with the kids and seeing the positive impact we make on young lives.
How does one become a volunteer?
To become a volunteer one needs to fill out an application, complete an interview, and have a background check. We have volunteers from all walks of life: high school students helping our first and second graders with homework as part of their community service hours, college students assisting with our mentoring program, retired teachers helping with tutoring and crafts, and businesses offering to help for one-day facility makeover projects. Corporate volunteers can help too. For example, DJO Global recently invited our kids to their site to play in a World Cup soccer tournament, have lunch, and learn about their business industry. There are many ways to help and make an impact on a young person’s life. We are in need of additional volunteer tutors to help supplement the program – especially for first and second graders.
How can parents get their children involved with club programs?
Please visit our website at www.bgcvista.org or check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/boysgirlsclubvista. We also allow a free one-day guest pass for families to come by, take a tour, and see the good work we are doing for Vista.
At-A-Glance | Boys & Girls Club of Vista
Year Established: 1963
Hours: Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during school breaks; 2:30 to 6 p.m. during the school year
Ages Served: 6 through 18
Locations: 410 W. California Ave., Madison Middle School, Vista Magnet Middle School,
Vista Innovation and Design Academy
At-A-Glance Matt Koumaras, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Vista
Years with the Boys & Girls Club of Vista: 7
Educational Background: BA from UC Santa Cruz in English Literature, Masters in Education from National University
Previous Titles and Awards: 2013 Nonprofit Administrator of the Year from the San Diego and Imperial County Office of Education, 2011 Gateway to Impact for Increased Attendance
Award from Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 2012 President of the Rotary Club of Vista.
Future Goals for the Boys & Girls Club of Vista: To expand into all areas of Vista to make sure that all kids have the opportunity to be safe and fun while learning the tools to lead a successful life in a global society.