Blog

Vince’s View: Akia’s Path to Faith and Football

Faith and football are two things which describe Akia’s life as a running back for the Waller Bulldogs.  He is a senior this year and strives to balance sports, a part-time job and homework. Life before Boys and Girls Country was chaos for this young man. “I was skipping school, failing my classes and getting into fights.  There are 182 days of school, and I spent 112 days on In-School Suspension (ISS).  Things were so bad I was failing gym class,” says Akia.  Life was not easy when he first came to BGC. He was defiant and angry, but our counseling services provided the help he desperately needed.

The beautiful thing about Boys and Girls Country is that things do not stay the same. We want to see our kids thrive and achieve new heights. Akia has wonderful Teaching Parents, Steven and Adrianne Madden, who have walked with him through the valleys of his journey. They are the constant mentors in his life.  According to Akia, “My Teaching Parents keep it real with me.”

People often thank Boys and Girls Country for “changing the lives of children.”  Truthfully, we do not change anybody.  We give children the opportunity and resources to make changes.  We provide a safe and secure environment where Teaching Parents can help guide and mentor young lives.  Akia has made these changes, and we celebrate his many victories.

Akia’s Christian faith has also inspired many of his peers as he attends weekly Bible Study at BGC. He has volunteered at several youth events and has been asked to share his testimony at a youth retreat in December.  Akia plans to step up and share how the power of God has changed his life! He will remind his fellow students, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Before coming to BGC, Akia was considered a “runner” or a “flight risk” because he ran away from home many times. The good news is that he is still a “runner.”  But, he is now running to Christ and running to pursue his dreams as a young man filled with hope and purpose.

Thank you for standing with Akia with your generous support. His story starts with your financial gift which gives us the opportunity to help children from families in crisis.  My five year-old son, Lucas, recently earned two dollars for completing some chores around the house.  He was excited and anxious to put the money into his empty wallet.  One hour later he came back and gave me the two dollars.  I said, “Lucas, what are you doing?  This is your money.” He said, “Dad this is for all my friends at Boys and Girls Country because I love that place.” I cannot think of any better way to describe Boys and Girls Country – a haven for children built by friends who love this place.

 


Will Overall Scores Birdies for BGC Kids

Travis and Kim Overall are dedicated to making sure the BGC kids have a safe, stable and loving home. Travis is a board director, and he and Kim have been donors for close to 15 years. In addition, their family has attended events like Spring Festival and the Heritage Award Dinner.

Now, the next generation in the Overall family is supporting the BGC mission. Will Overall, Travis and Kim’s son, is a busy high school student who has very little time to volunteer. His time is consumed with school and golf tournaments; he has been mastering his golf skills since a very young age. Will has a passion to give back and wants to find ways to make a difference. Last year Will decided to combine his two passions to support the BGC kids.

Will created Birdies for Boys and Girls Country.  He reached out to family and friends and asked them to pledge a dollar amount for every birdie he made during his school and summer tournament season. Will played in a total of 14 tournaments. He had anywhere from a $5 pledge to a $100 pledge on the line every time he lined up a birdie putt.  He made 48 birdies in total. Each tournament made Will more and more motivated as he realized every birdie made a difference in the lives of kids from families in crisis. Will’s determination, hard work, and commitment paid off; he raised $26,761 for Boys and Girls Country!  (More donations were received after the check for $25,731 was presented!)

Not only did Will play his heart out in his favorite sport, but he has made an incredible difference in the lives of more than 100 children! Will is excited about the upcoming season because he has recruited 17 of his teammates to participate in Birdies for Boys and Girls Country. They are determined to reach their goal of $100,000.

Will’s commitment impressed everyone at Boys and Girls Country. It is amazing to see God work through him and empower others as well. Kim shared that she and her husband are incredibly proud of their son and the impact he was able to make.  She said the best part was that Will was so independent and driven that the fundraiser did not require any help from her.

If you’d like to be a part of Will’s mission-driven golf season, please email him at overallwill@gmail.com.


Back-to-School Reflection by Jayna Harris

As our kids return back to school, we wanted to share the perspective of Jayna, a teaching parent who cares for seven boys in Cottage 6, along with her husband Cliff.

“About 10 months ago we became teaching parents to a cottage of boys. We did not know how quickly we would fall in love with them as sons.  Three of the young men in our cottage will be graduating this year, and the start of their senior year has been harder than we imagined. The start of their final year with us in this cottage seems bittersweet.

Marcus, Carlos and Leo are the seniors form Cottage 6.

Summer has been full of smiles and great memories: we played basketball, had long talks about spiritual growth and laughed during our fun-filled days of cottage vacation. But the reality of the summer season ending is slowly hitting us. Before we know it the BGC pool will close for another season, and the cheers of Friday Night Lights will echo through our small town once more as we exchange our long, hot days of summer for cooler weather.

For the BGC kids, the end of summer marks new beginnings. Some will start kindergarten, others are walking into junior high for the first time, and still others are beginning their high school journeys. There are also new kids on campus who are learning a new structure, adjusting to family stability and stepping out in faith that this new life will be full of adventures. They will make new friends, see their new school and discover that dreams are achievable.

Fourteen of our children are beginning their senior year. No doubt, each teaching parent feels as we do as they watch these young adults embark on this major milestone. It is a bittersweet time, but we feel so blessed to have been given the gift of being part of the lives of these amazing young men and women.

A child’s milestones are plentiful: from a baby’s first coos to his first steps, to tearful goodbyes on the first day of kindergarten, to the first time you loan them a car to drive, and so much more.  As teaching parents at BGC, we don’t always get to witness the firsts of our kids. Somehow God still uses everyday moments to grow us together. Thanks to His guidance, we see smiles appear in place of hurt and sadness, grit and pure determination take over heartache and defeat, and courage emerges when kids discover that they are special and loved. The major milestone occurs when our children allow themselves to accept unconditional love, grace, and mercy for the first time in their lives, and let God change their hearts.

Our boys have come a long way in ten months and so have we. I know this school year we will grow even closer together as a family. Sometimes God’s biggest blessings come in the form of pathways we would never have chosen for ourselves. But Praise Jesus that His mercies are new every morning and that, just like the passing of the seasons, the change He creates in us comes whether we think we are ready for it or not.

Please continue to pray for us as we enter a new school year. Pray for our kids to start the year out strongly, for them to make friends who will be good influences. And please pray for their teaching parents as we guide them through another school year.”


Beyond the Barrier

Firezer

More than half of the children who come to live at Boys and Girls Country speak a different language at home. Our population of bilingual kids is 42 percent which brings great diversity as well as new challenges to our cottage homes.

Firezer came from Ethiopia three years ago. Amharic is the language she spoke most of her life. She needed a lot of support to be able to do well at school in Waller. When she came to BGC she was very reserved and had little hope of achieving good results due to her language barrier. Our Education Program Manager Kristi Pierce recognized Firezer’s struggles and created a plan to help her become more proficient in English. Kristi paired her with our volunteer librarians to ensure consistent language immersion, secured necessary accommodations at school and engaged a tutor to get her up to speed in various subjects.

Firezer was very surprised when she received her SAT scores this spring. Her results were higher than anyone expected and surpassed the scores of many kids whose native language is English. During the few years that she has been here, Firezer felt empowered to take advantage of the opportunities around her.

Our program at Boys and Girls Country is always adjusting to meet the needs of our children. Thanks to your investment, we can offer bilingual services to a large population of our campus. Cultural adaptation is very challenging for children and it requires emotional, educational and spiritual support.

Next year Firezer will be a senior. She has maintained A’s and B’s while playing sports and was invited to join the National Honor Society. She was very proud to make the soccer team playing the forward position and also enjoyed running track. Firezer secured her first job and has made huge strides in time management skills. She is interested in trying new things every year, and it fills our hearts with joy to see her using her talents.

This summer our kids participated in the World Culture Expo as a part of the BGC Summer Education program. The expo helped kids learn more about different countries and the cultures of other kids at BGC. We want our kids to take pride in their traditions and values and share them with their BGC family.


YP – Black and White Soiree

Please join us as a guest of the Boys and Girls Country Young Professionals.
The Black and White Soiree is a special evening which gathers young professionals of Houston to make a difference in the lives of more than 100 children who call Boys and Girls Country home. This year, the soiree is hosted by IW Marks Jewelers.
You will not want to miss this exciting evening!
 
October 9, 6-8 p.m.


Walk of Hope Tour

Curious about life on our campus and in our cottages? Would you like to see firsthand the warm, family-oriented home your support makes possible?

Tours are held the first Saturday of most months beginning at 10 a.m. Guests are asked to meet in the Administration building. Come join us for a tour of our campus and cottages. It’s an hour of wonderful stories, great information and an inside look at where our children live. This is not a fundraising event. Bring only an open heart and a friend.

Contact Susan Breaux at 832-807-2115 or susanb@boysandgirlscountry.org to RSVP.


Days for Girls Service Project Brings Boys and Girls Country Girls an Award!

We are excited to share that a recent Boys and Girls Country (BGC) service project has been awarded the Youth in Philanthropy First Honorable Mention and a $1,000 prize from the Greater Houston Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Diversity and Outreach Committee!

Led by Jayna Harris, a BGC teaching parent, about 30 girls participated in a project with Days for Girls International. This organization makes reusable, sustainable feminine hygiene kits and provides them to girls who would otherwise miss school during their monthly cycles. Living in a home which emphasizes the importance of education, our girls were inspired to help and ensure that girls around the world would not miss school because of a lack of monthly hygiene supplies. This project gave our girls a sense of pride and accomplishment that they were able to help less fortunate children on the other side of the world. Intended to be a one-time service project, it has become an ongoing effort involving more and more girls on the BGC campus.

Goals of the project:

—To educate the young ladies in our care about the challenges other girls around the world go through every month.

—To help our girls recognize the value of education and opportunities.

—To help provide a sustainable, reusable solution for those in need of feminine hygiene kits around the world.

—To reintroduce the lost craft of sewing to the next generation of girls.

—To give back 50,000 school days to girls around the world through the use of the kits.

Our teenage girls were able to learn simple techniques to create the drawstring bags for the kits, and our younger girls put the kits together. We always encourage our BGC kids to “be the change”, and it fills our hearts with so much love to see the fruits of their labor.

We are very thankful for Board Director Chuck Scianna and his family who awarded funds for the past two years for service projects to be performed by our kids. The only stipulation put on the projects was that they had to be conceived, written and performed by the children with minimal adult input. In order to make this a learning process for the kids, they were required to submit a proposal, including a timeline and a budget. These projects encouraged our kids to make a difference in the world and taught them real-life skills.

“It has been amazing to see our young girls on campus sit down to learn to sew at a machine. They beamed with pride when they have completed a kit for another girl in need,” said Harris.

“I’m so proud of these young ladies who so willingly gave their time in order to make a difference in our world and to bring a brighter future to girls their own age in Uganda.  Thank you all so very much!” commented Jean Kreutzer, head of the local Days for Girls Chapter.