In 1887, when Annabell Cook Whitcomb transformed two basement rooms at Plymouth Church in downtown Milwaukee into a club for children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM) was born. The organization now serves more than 40,000 young people, both boys and girls, at 44 locations across greater Milwaukee, making the clubs the oldest and largest youth-serving agency in the area.
In order to support the unique needs of youth, and with a $28 million operating budget, BGCGM offers hundreds of programs within six core areas: Education and Career Development; the Arts; Adolescent and Holistic Health Initiatives; Sports, Fitness, and Recreation; Outdoor Environment and Education; and Character and Leadership.
For the SEL Challenge, BGCGM focused on the Can You Hear Us Now? (CYHUN) program. This youth-led advocacy program started in 2011 at the LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club which serves approximately 50 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 each year. The CYHUN program provides teens an artistic platform to express themselves through media and art, and the guidance to address issues that are affecting them. Each year the youth collectively decide on an important issue to focus on and learn the technical skills associated with a particular artistic medium (e.g., videography, photography, poetry).
In 2011, youth wrote and performed a theatrical production titled The Block is Hot: The Victim’s Perspective of the Impact of Gun Violence. In 2012, youth participants organized several community events, including an open mic night called SPEAK OUT: Survivors and Advocates Against Sexual Violence. And in 2013, youth were the focus of a documentary entitled The Voice: The Power of Youth Voice in Changing Society, as well as a public service announcement about the impact of suicide.