a port in the storm

By Stephanie Koch, CEO, The Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City (BGCAC)

Since 1970, The Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City (BGCAC) has helped kids overcome challenges and prepare for the future by offering academic support, developing social, emotional, and life skills, and providing a safe space to nurture talent and creativity. Although Atlantic City has weathered many types of storms, each causing economic damage, unemployment and other disruptions, none have had the immediate impact on our Club Kids of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the lockdown began, our newly formed Leadership Team knew that we had to come together as a unified force to navigate these uncharted waters. Although leadership teams face challenges daily, a global pandemic posed a new level of problems that we needed to tackle as an organization in order to sustain our fiscal and operational health.

UNSTOPPABLE was our port in a storm. It provided a safe space to work on self-discovery as well as team discovery through open dialogue and a communal environment. During this time of chaos, UNSTOPPABLE enabled our Leadership Team to zoom out to better understand how we could strategically help our Club families through this difficult time and stay focused on the future of our organization.

The training not only helped us appreciate the unique challenges that are part of each team member’s work, it confirmed that we could each contribute a piece of the solution to this unprecedented challenge. The analogy of building a cathedral was especially resonant: A cathedral can’t be built in a day, nor can it be constructed by any one person alone. This philosophy was quickly embraced by our Leadership Team and cascaded to each member’s supporting staff. I immediately saw teams working together for the common good of the organization, opening communication, demonstrating loyalty, and standing together in the hope of reopening to serve our Club Families.

UNSTOPPABLE helped our team strengthen our relationships and seal our dedication to each other and the mission of our work. We unite and support each other without question. It provided a sense of understanding that, while our histories and perspectives may differ across the team, our goal for a better future in Atlantic City is the same.

Leadership Team members are now using the tools in their toolbox of self-discovery to tackle new challenges. They are also identifying their unique talents, skills, and roles as well as asking to learn more about what their fellow team members bring to the table. There is a new sense of confidence that our strategies can be discussed while in progress, that goals should be touted, and that by speaking to our progress we will garner support.

Atlantic City is 48 blocks of diversity, history, and culture. Within those 48 blocks, the BGCAC is a vehicle for driving opportunity into the lives of our young people. We are the scaffolding for kids to climb for a better tomorrow. It is our hope that the generation of youth we work with each day sees themselves as UNSTOPPABLE, because the scaffolding they climb is only as high as they imagine it to be. By conveying the lessons we learned in our training, we can help our community (both fellow staff and Club families) to support each other, understanding that a sense of belonging and simply believing in yourself can help you weather any storm.

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