CHESTERTOWN — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford and Cecil Counties presented their “Club on the Go” model to the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday, Nov. 16.

At the meeting were Derek DeWitt, the executive director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford and Cecil Counties; Jim Quimby, the director of operations; and Dave Prichard, the area manager for the Eastern Shore.

Boys and Girls Clubs in Harford and Cecil counties have been established for almost 32 years. The organizations merged in 2017.

The clubs serve over 7,500 kids — aged 6 to 18 — each year through their programming.

“Academic success is paramount to everything that we do because you can’t do anything without it,” DeWitt said. “(K)ids that attend Boys and Girls Clubs two or more days a week are 94% more likely to graduate on time from high school.”

Boys and Girls Clubs open their doors to everyone, but focus on kids who need the club the most.

“In some communities that means low to moderate income ... in most communities that is the case,” DeWitt said. “We serve kids who the need for them isn’t necessarily income based, it’s more social emotional.

“We’re here to fill the need as youth development professionals as the need is described and defined for us,” he said.

Club on the Go, a mobile version of their clubs, started so the Boys and Girls Clubs could still provide services to those children who needed them during the COVID-19 pandemic. They renovated mini buses with work stations and technology and drove into areas that were otherwise inaccessible and under resourced.

“We started going on a daily basis, started developing relationships with the families and kids that were there, and happily we’ve seen great success with that with upwards of 20 and 30 kids per neighborhood getting exposed to Boys and Girls Clubs’ evidence-based programs on a daily basis,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said that COVID-19 also created an opportunity to form and strengthen the Maryland Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.

Through that alliance, the governor’s office saw these clubs as an investible prospect, he said.

Gov. Larry Hogan introduced the Project Bounce Back Initiative, which introduced funding for Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Maryland to expand services to every county in the state.

“Prior to this we were in 10 counties. Our intent is by 2025 to have a Boys and Girls Club impact in every county in the state,” DeWitt said.

The next logical step for the Harford and Cecil clubs is to expand into Kent County and down the Eastern Shore.

“We are coming into the areas of the state where we don’t have an existing presence, introducing ourselves and finding out how we can help,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said they had already met with Superintendent of Kent County Public Schools Karen Couch, the Kent County Local Management Board and other existing youth resources in the county.

“We’re very interested in serving in whatever capacity is going to help kids and students and families in Kent County to have a really high impact,” DeWitt said. “We just want to get in front of kids and start providing services.”

While there are grant funds available through 2024, DeWitt said they are working toward sustainability by creating a licensed child care program at one or more elementary school — targeting Title I schools — where there is funding available for childcare scholarships.

“I think it sounds like a wonderful program,” said Tom Mason, president of the commissioners. “We really need help in this county with learning and at this younger stage.”

DeWitt said the Boys and Girls Club programming focuses on academic performance in reading and math levels by third grade. He said that is a key component to making sure students graduate on time.

“There’s a lot of really good opportunity in that we already have Parks and Rec providing after care in the schools, we have the support from the school system. With other resources I really think we could make it a unique offering in the community,” said Rosemary Ramsey-Granillo, director of the Kent County Local Management Board.

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