Yesterday, Tuesday, January 31, 2023, BGCNW representatives visited the State Capitol in Albany, NY; with the New York State Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs; for the annual State Legislative Days, to advocate on behalf of increased funding for youth development and after-school programs, nutrition initiatives, and preventative mental health support programs.
BGCNW CEO, Alyzza Ozer, along with 3 staff members and 11 teens, joined representatives from Clubs across New York State to meet with State legislators and advocate for continued and increased funding for these critical youth development programs. The group met with Assembly Members Chris Burdick, Andrew Hevesi, and Amy Paulin; and with Senators Pete Harckham, Luis Sepulveda, and Shelley Mayer. Senator Harckham has visited the Club 3 times in the past two years, most recently to award a proclamation recognizing the Club’s BGNW Marlins swim team for achieving Bronze Medal status from USA Swimming. Assemblymember Burdick has also been a recent guest at the Club, visiting to talk to the kids and staff about his role in the community and to view the Club’s participation in the Afterschool Alliance’s annual Lights On Afterschool initiative.
Club staff and teens attended floor sessions and group meetings, as well as the one-on-one legislative visits with elected officials, to urge the State to continue and increase funding for programs that support youth development, including: adding $1M for Boys & Girls Club Nutrition Initiatives that provide nutritious meals and snacks to children and families across the state, the reappropriation of $7.5M in funding to support youth development programs; bringing funding levels back up to 2011 levels; and, allocation of funding to support preventative mental health support programming for youth.
The need for funding these critical programs is clear and alarming. According to the Afterschool Alliance, for every child enrolled in after-school programming 4 are waiting for available programs, and 340,053 are alone and unsupervised between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 pm. Feeding America reports that 1 in 7 children experience hunger in New York State. It is estimated that 1 in 6 children, aged 6-17, experience a mental health disorder each year, with Black and Latinx children being 14% less likely to receive treatment for depression. Boys & Girls Clubs across the state seek to address these needs through the expansion and enhancement of their existing youth development programs.