The Future Starts Here
● By Aimee Cormier
Renovations Underway For Boys & Girls Club Iberia
By Shanna Perkins
“To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” This is the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of America, which is why the Boys & Girls Club of Iberia is going to great lengths to ensure the children in their club receive world-class treatment in a world-class facility.
The New Iberia branch of the Boys & Girls Club is housed in the historic Bahon Gym, which is named after Charles M. Bahon. The gymnasium, built in 1939, is owned by the Iberia Parish School Board. Through the help of the school board, the community and grants, the Bahon Gym will soon be the updated home the Boys & Girls Club deserves.
“We’re excited to have all of the renovations done,” says Boys & Girls Club of Iberia’s Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. “Unfortunately, it takes some time and while we’re completing everything the kids can’t be here. But, the investment that we’re making in the community right now is a huge dividend for the long run.”
The Iberia Parish School Board was responsible for the first round of completed renovations. The leaking roof that was at the top of the priority list has been replaced. There have been upgrades to ceilings, floors and air-conditioning units.
The school board also renovated two classrooms where new state-of-the-art equipment will be installed.
“The Iberia Parish School Board has done so much for us,” Ford explains. “We want to give them credit for partnering with us and understanding the need to help youth after 3:00 p.m. Just because the school bell rings, learning can’t stop. The Boys & Girls Club is the perfect partnership with the schools. We help kids with homework and the youth development continues to keep kids on the right track.”
In addition, four grants are bringing technology and creativity to the Boys & Girls Club. Because as Boys & Girls Club of Iberia’s Unit Director Victoria Sarkies says, “It’s a community effort to get everything together.” The Best Buy grant will provide them with a music recording studio. The students will have all of the equipment necessary to record music, including the sound systems and computer software. A grant from Cox equipped the club with brand new computers.
“I just went to the Cox training in Atlanta,” Sarkies recounts. “We actually went through the programming as if we were being taught as children ourselves. It felt like we were playing games. It was so exciting and we all wanted to keep going and learning.”
The third grant is via Superior Energy and will provide new materials and equipment for the STEM room. STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology engineering and math. The children will be supplied with iMacs, flat screen televisions, furniture for the room, computer tables as well as lounge furniture.
“We’re focusing heavily on our STEM program,” says Sarkies. “We have all of these things at our disposal, computers, tablets, Lego robotics kits and cameras. I’m so excited to introduce our children to all of the new equipment. This year, we had a really fun summer, but we didn’t have all of these tools available. I can’t wait to get the kids engaged.”
The fourth grant is from Lowe’s and will fund the repainting of the gym and renovations to the art room. The art room has received a new ceiling and air-conditioning unit; plans to redo the flooring are underway.
While the gym is undergoing repairs, the Boys & Girls Club has implemented an afterschool program for children to attend. The Catch 21 Program is academically focused and is being held at three Iberia Parish elementary schools. The renovations are expected to be complete within the next couple of months. Ford says he’s confident that the wait will be well worth it when the children return to the Bahon Gym.
“We’re trying to provide a world-class facility for the kids,” Ford states. “The kids we serve come from disadvantaged circumstances and they deserve the best. They deserve a world-class facility and that’s what we’re going to provide them with in New Iberia.”