By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
They're Kern County-wide, with 52 locations. They're in seven local school districts. They have about 5,500 kids walking through the doors each day. And more than 400 youth professionals mentor them.
They are the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County. The organization's executive director, Zane Smith, was recently named the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's National Executive of the Year. He came on the "First Look with Scott Cox" simulcast Tuesday to talk about the club with Californian President and CEO Richard Beene.
"Kids keep us motivated," Smith said.
The club has a special focus on kids ages 5 to 17 from low-income areas, "but we want to be there for any child who needs us," Smith said.
Any kid who goes to an empty home after school would face risk factors, Smith said, so the club wants to serve them too.
He said the programs are designed for kids' particular needs -- and kids vote with their feet and wouldn't be there if they didn't like the activities, which range from education and career-building work to sports, art and the chance to learn about everything Kern County has to offer.
Asked by Beene if anyone else provides the same kind of programs, Smith listed parks and recreation departments, the Friendship House, Sheriff's Activities League, Police Activities League and Garden Pathways as among the local organizations serving children. Smith said the club collaborates with them so as not to duplicate services.
"I think Kern County is the best place to do this. We are all about partnering and collaborating," Smith said.
What makes this town good?, Beene asked.
"Kern County is an amazing, generous community," Smith said. He explained that the club has many valuable relationships that allow the club to do what it does, including partnerships with schools so kids can stay after school for Boys & Girls Club programs.