Boys and Girls Clubs Luncheon
Another title for our city: Mentoring Megaplex.
Is there another place where so many people take time out to mentor at-risk youths?
Just think of the growning number of groups helping out with this critical task: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, Southwest Key, First Tee of Greater Austin, YMCA, YWCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire USA, Andy Roddick Foundation, Council for At Risk Youth, CASA, LifeWorks, American YouthWorks, OutYouth and many more.
That doesn’t include the countless churches, sports and other programs aimed at keeping kids in school and headed on the straight and narrow.
Still, is there a group with the recent record of Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area?
- In a few short years, they’ve gone from serving 2,000 to 12,000 kids.
- Among senior club members, 97 percent have graduated high school in the past two years.
- One hundred percent of club members have graduated to their next grade level.
- Fifty-seven percent said the the club “saved my life.”
A good deal of credit goes to the club’s incredibly active leader, Mark Kiester, who worked the Be Somebody Luncheon at the Hilton Austin like a man running for higher office.
As usual at this annual event, emceed by former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, we heard from auspicious club members. The keynote speaker, however, was businessman and benefactor John Paul DeJoria. Turns out the tequila and hair-care billionaire felt privileged to belong the the Variety Boys Club in East Los Angeles during the 1950s.
One mystery for DeJoria: Why didn’t his name and that of his brother appear on the enlistment rolls from that period? Because a Mr. Gomez was waiving their 25-cent annual dues. The Austinite more than repaid the club by writing large checks for a new building and pool.
DeJoria belonged to a unthreatening street gang back then. He now speaks with great force about the importance of self-reliance — he proposes handing over certain tasks that routinely flummox politicians, like the budget deficit, to groups of business leaders — while acknowledging the value of communal heroes such as the Boys and Girls Clubs.