I am writing today in response to an article that ran in this weekend's Brattleboro Reformer. The article 'Safe Place' wanted for kids in Brattleboro was very disheartening to me and any young people past and present who call the Boys & Girls Club home.
Let me start by saying I commend Mr. Antoniello for wanting to give the youth of Brattleboro a place to "go to be themselves and not be judged", but I take exception with some of the things he is quoted as saying or believing.
I agree with Mr. Antoniello that Brattleboro has a "huge drug problem", but I find it interesting that was said by someone who makes his living selling drug paraphernalia.
Also, Mr. Antoniello commented in the article that the Boys & Girls Club is "sufficient for younger kids," but I want him and everyone else to know that most of our members and the young people who come here are not younger, they are teenagers. Also, at our Flat Street location children younger than 10 are not allowed without bringing their own adult. Over 700 of our almost 1100 members at our Flat Street Club House are teenagers.
The Boys & Girls Club mission is: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The Club provides: A safe place to learn and grow, Ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, Life-enhancing programs and character development experiences as well as Hope and Opportunity.
The Club offers programs and opportunities in Leadership, Character and Service as well as Academic Excellence and Healthy Lifestyles. All while letting them be themselves and take ownership in THEIR CLUB!
If young people are being made fun of for coming to the Boys & Girls Club as Mr. Antoniello said in the article I would guess it is from those teens that are making life choices that do not fit with the Boys & Girls Club ideas and beliefs or by people who have not really ever set foot in The Club.
I do not believe that Mr. Antoniello has ever been to the Clubhouse on Flat Street and would encourage him or anyone else who is not sure what happens here to come by, take a tour and see all that is going on for teens and all young people right here in Brattleboro.
At The Club we are always trying to do more and meet the needs of the young people here in the greater Brattleboro area. Given limited budget and resources we do as much as we can for all young people. We are always trying to do more and I would encourage Mr. Antoniello and his supports to come be part of our efforts to make the greater Brattleboro area a better place for all young people.
Having helped run a youth center for the past 11 years I have some questions and concerns for what Mr. Antoniello is trying to do, but again I applaud his effort to give young people a safe place to go.