MANATEE -- "A safe place to learn and grow" is one of the mottos of the Boys & Girls Club of America, and a mission Saint Stephen's Episcopal School students and faculty have taken on in a new volunteering partnership this year.
Founded more than 150 years ago in Hartford, Conn., the Boys & Girls Club has played a transformative role in helping many children build character and develop into educated young adults.
The club came to Manatee County in 1946 with the help of the Kiwanis Club and other generous local donors.
In the years to come, the organization expanded to include girls, and opened branches in Palmetto, Bayshore (later becoming Desoto), East Bradenton and various schools.
Although it provides many youth programs such as art, leadership and physical fitness, Saint Stephen's students have gotten most involved with the educational aspect.
The Boys & Girls Club holds a Homework Help program from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays for elementary and middle school students. Saint Stephen's students and faculty go to the Desoto and Palmetto locations to tutor.
A typical tutoring experience can range from teaching long division to listening to a student read a new book.
Devon Sullivan, class of 2016, said: "The students en
ter with a positive attitude, ready for us to help them finish their homework."
Todd Creneti, dean of student life at Saint Stephen's, said it is important for students to get involved and "be a positive influence in the community."
Grace Moore, Class of 2016, tutors every Wednesday. She said one of her favorite experiences has been helping a young girl develop her love of writing.
"She told me that she loved to write, so I had her create a new story every week," Grace said. "Watching her improve and be so proud of it is very rewarding."
The ability to make a tangible impact is the reason members of the Saint Stephens's community continue to return, they said.
Latin teacher Geoffrey Revard captured the essence of this year's service at the Boys & Girls Club.
"The reason to do service is because you always end up gaining much more than you give," Revard said. "For example, I had been serving for several weeks and then I missed a couple because I had been out of town. When I came back and walked in, a little girl who I had helped on a number of occasions saw me and ran up and gave me a hug.
"She said: 'I'm so glad you're back.' Now, if that doesn't make you feel wonderful, I don't know what does. The little children there have this unbridled response in showing their appreciation and that's worth more than any money you'll ever get for the time."