BGCA Keystone Conference Inspires Future Leaders

We recently attended Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s National Keystone Conference. You can learn more about our work with BGCA below.

What is the focus and mission of Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA)?

BGCA has a long history of supporting and empowering young people. Their website notes, “The mission and core beliefs of Boys & Girls Clubs fuel their commitment to promoting a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for all youth and teens – of every race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, socio-economic status, and religion – in reaching their full potential.” Through experiences at their clubs, young people who participate in BGCA activities are prepared to graduate high “with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle.” Additionally, BGCA convenes a National Keystone Conference each year, bringing together members to connect with peers, and enhance what they are getting at their local Boys and Girls Clubs. This year’s conference was held last week, in Atlanta.

Why does ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning partner with Boys and Girls Club of America?

The overall goal of our partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America is to leverage our combined resources and networks to strengthen underrepresented communities, empower young people, and help remove barriers aimed at making education equitable for all students. Our relationship allows a valuable link to more than 4,300 club locations, 1,100 organizations, and millions of students through our partnership network.

What was ACT’s role at the conference?

ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning has partnered with BGCA to present a breakout session aimed at increasing college readiness and introducing new ACT products like ACT Academy and PreACT. Our presentation provided students an inside look at ACT and the Center in general, along with a deeper dive into ACT Academy and the available resources students can access as needed to prepare for the exam. I was joined by fellow ACT team member Amy Nicknish who co-presented at our session and helped me greet the hundreds of kids who visited our booth to learn more about all ACT has to offer.

Hundreds of club teens and their club advisors stopped by our College and Career Expo booth to ask questions, learn about free ACT tools, and walk away with actionable next steps to access the information and tools they need to succeed in high school, college and their careers. We met with students from across the nation as well as a select group of kids whose parents are actively in the military from Japan and Alaska. While the event as a whole was extremely well coordinated, the greatest part for me was meeting two recent high school graduates from the East Coast.   You could feel their energy and excitement for being there — they insisted we take a picture and showed me their cool fist pump handshake move. When speaking with the students, I was amazed with their determination and desire to make a difference in their lives. An example is two girls I met from the Milwaukee area who walked up to our booth and wanted to know how I got to be in my role at ACT.   One is interested in working in the area of communications and becoming a motivational speaker. I came away from the event with a renewed sense of pride about the work the Center is doing, and our partnership with BGCA. I am so inspired to serve as the lead on this partnership, especially seeing so many intelligent, bright students who only need the right resources and support system to really have a bright future.

What was this year’s conference theme?

This year’s conference theme was: “Imagine (Your Dreams). Do (The Work). Become (The Change).” Each year, the Keystone Conference is hosted by the national office for Keystone Clubs that have met the annual programming requirements of the Keystone program. Teens and advisors enjoyed interactive, high-energy sessions and experiences that address critical teen issues, promote community service, encourage inclusion and show them how to take their local Keystone Clubs to the next level.