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This May, the Steil Boys & Girls Club decided to power down, literally. Staff members launched “Unplugged Wednesdays” after noticing one day that youth were flocking to play video games and use the computers instead of enjoying the beautiful spring weather.
“We decided that once a week on Wednesday, we were going to be completely unplugged,” said Club Director Erin Crison. “There is no TV, video games or computers allowed.”
Although some staff were concerned that Club attendance was going to decrease on the new unplugged days, attendance actually went up. The youth’s response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and it has provided a positive shift in the atmosphere for staff, Club members and their parents.
“The kids keep us on our toes and like to remind us that it is 'Unplugged Wednesday',” said Crison. “They also try to take it to the extreme and turn off all of the lights and have staff turn off their computers. Staff have enjoyed it, but it is quite a change in pace for staff. There were some concerns initially, but it has been well received since. Parents are also happy to see their kids spend less time on the computer, video games, etc.”
Teaching Club members about saving electricity and creating a “greener” Boys & Girls Club, and planet, is definitely important to staff as can be seen by stepping outside to the Amway-sponsored community and Club garden in back, but "Unplugged Wednesdays" is not about energy conservation in the conventional sense.
“It was mainly about unplugging and 'plugging' into each other,” said Crison. “So much of today's social interaction is done via some type of electronic device. We talk to our friends on Facebook or Twitter, so the staff decided that on 'Unplugged Wednesdays' we were going to amp up our activities in the Club,\ so that we could really spend time connecting with each other, kids and staff in the Club.
"Unplugged Wednesdays" is a program that shows that youth are just looking for someone to help them communicate, to teach them to connect the old-fashioned way. Although Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids understands the importance of training their youth to engage with today’s technology, the organization also values creating meaningful interpersonal relationships.
“It was really neat especially during Teen Time,” said Crison. “Teens and staff played card games and spent time talking and connecting.”
As they head into the fall and the school year, the Steil Boys & Girls Club will be planning some new activities to expand upon their "Unplugged Wednesdays." Community members can contribute to the program by volunteering or donating. Everyone could benefit by unplugging once in a while.
“We are always looking for passionate volunteers to come in and spend time with the kids,” said Crison. “If volunteering isn't something that someone is able to do, they can also help by donating board games or art supplies.”
For more information on how to get involved, contact Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids.
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