Angelica Heras is passionate about her role as site coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Anthem Extension.
She’s hoping, one day, to see the club filled with children studying, playing dodgeball, watching movies and working on crafts. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Anthem club, which opened in August 2020, has seen an average of 15 children. Heras hopes to have 40.
“It’s not that COVID-19 hurt us,” Heras said. “People don’t know we’re around yet. It’s been hard trying to get children in, but we’re hopeful. We’re connecting with the community and networking.
“If we get to 40 when the restrictions lift, that would be wonderful. There are so many kids in the area.”
Heras said the club has “amazing services.” It provides a safe place for children to complete their remote schooling as well as fun programming and activities, she added.
Youth development programs support a commitment to learning, positive values and healthy habits. Professionally trained staff offer caring relationships and connections to new friends that reinforce a sense of belonging, personal accountability, civility and civic responsibility.
“We do our core programs every day and we implement them through a variety of subcategories of each program,” Heras said. “We do health and wellness. We do the arts. We do education. We focus on physical activity.”
The first hour, the students have a “power hour,” during which time they are encouraged to finish their homework. Afterward, the kids partake in programs like typing, STEAM (science, technology, engineering and math) and health and wellness. The club doesn’t have enough staff for each room, so currently, the children have a different program every hour.
Heras is schooled in the Boys & Girls Clubs. She moved to the Valley from Tucson, where she worked at its Boys & Girls Clubs.
“It’s not very common that someone gets to open up a whole new Boys & Girls Club site,” she said. “It’s been fun. It’s been challenging and it’s definitely been an experience. That’s what I was looking for.”
Anthem was chosen as a site because there’s a need for child care in the area, Heras said. A suite was found, and the organization immediately grabbed it. The hours are 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“We used to do field trips, but we can’t because of COVID,” she said. “We decided to have professionals come in and talk to the kids during a little summer camp.
“We’ll have a photographer, a videographer, a dancer, a professional cheerleader from a football team. We’re going to have a juggler come in, someone teaching unicycling.”
Community outreach is important to Heras as well. She’s offered her location for school dances or other functions. Previously, she held a movie night with a big screen outside in the courtyard, and a late-night date night for parents, allowing children in the club from 6 to 10 p.m.
“Parents went out on a date and left their kids with us,” she said. “The kids had a blast, and the parents were happy to have time to themselves."