Culver Boys & Girls Club hopes to transform young lives with community help in new initiative

Cory Monnier, unit di­rector at the Culver Boys & Girls Club, is excited about a new initiative he feels is critical for many of its young members, but he's going to need you to make it happen.

Culver has shone in its support of the club, which is located at the Culver Ele­mentary School, financially in a variety of other ways, but in order for children there to be successful and develop to their full poten­tial, the club is launching an after-school tutoring program which will rely on the caring and commitment of community members in order to function and flour­ish.

"There are three prongs to success in a child's life," Monnier explains. "School, family, and community. I think community is that mortar. Sometimes fam­ily, and sometimes school, can't fully meet kids' needs, whether that's time re­straints from parents or learning issues, or what­ever it is. The community needs to step in and fill in those gaps, which is why I think the (CBGC) is a great avenue."

Education, notes Mon­nier, is the gap in many youngsters' experiences, and he emphasizes that "this is a community need, and not just a Boys & Girls Club need."

Monnier, who has an el­ementary education back­ground, says he sees some of the "limitations and handcuffs" placed on the public education system today.

"The biggest problem is you can't mandate fam­ily reform. There are a lot of parents out there who need some extra help, whether it's because they don't know how to do the best job, or because they're working three jobs to put food on the table. They have bigger concerns than education, (such as) how to feed, clothe, and shelter their kids.

"Teachers are stuck with a difficult task. You need to make sure these kids all succeed, but the idea that all of them are coming in from the same playing field and background (is wrong). There's not really a big sup­port system for teachers all the time. I would hope the Boys & Girls Club could come in and support fami­lies and teachers."

Currently, the CBGC has 30 to 40 kids per day do­ing their homework after school (between 90 and 100 kids attend the club daily), but the staffing and budget isn't sufficient to provide the help truly needed, Mon­nier says.

"We can help them with problems or check for com­pletion, but we don't have the support system to give them the individ­ual remediation skills they need to bring them where they need to be. That's where we need volunteers to lend a hand to help these kids out."

Monnier em­phasizes the club has the space, good lines of com­munication with parents and teachers, and even the financial resources to pur­chase materials such as flash cards.

He's hoping to get at least three volunteers per day to commit two and a half hours each, which would facilitate three 45-minute tutoring sessions. Families could sign their children up for at least one session per week.

"That's 45 kids we could give individualized tutor­ing sessions a week."

Culver's Boys & Girls Club has been an unparal­leled success in the com­munity. Over 270 children --more than half of the pop­ulace of Culver Elementary School -- are registered members, and daily at­tendance, as mentioned, is steady at nearly 100. Atten­dance in the club's summer program this year increased by 50 percent, and the club's annual auction and banquet is a gala, well-at­tended affair which consis­tently raises some $50,000 of the club's budget.

The support from orga­nizations, groups, and indi­viduals for the club in the Culver area has been tre­mendous as well, Monnier says, so he's optimistic that 15 volunteers per week is a possibility.

"With Tri Kappa, the Lions Club, Kiwanis, the Academy, and Culver High School, if we could get a commitment regularly, it could make a huge impact on the education of these kids. We have a lot of dif­ferent constituents here: retired teachers, current teachers, different service groups...we need to spread the word."

It would be ideal, Monnier notes, for a given tutor to be able to commit four or eight straight Wednesdays, for example, to tutoring, and the club has quality training programs for tutors or volunteers. He emphasizes no one should be discouraged if they lack any formal educational background -- tutors are welcome from all walks of life.
The Porter County Boys & Girls Club, of which Cul­ver's club is a part, has a "Link N' Learn" program, says Monnier, whose success he hopes CBGC can emulate.

"(It's a) fantastic model for collaboration between com­munity volunteers, families, and the school...a lot of times the program was running so well, teachers would refer certain kids to the Boys & Girls Club program."

Such a relationship can even aid the school corporation as a whole, he adds, since it's a "perk" the teachers and administration could promote to prospective families.

"This is another unique way I can give back," Monnier adds. "It's a deeper level of philanthropic giving, a dif­ferent avenue so we can do some great things with kids."