Boys & Girls Club focuses on helping teens plan for next step

El Dorado News-Times
El Dorado News-Times

Editor’s note: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). This story is part of a series of articles highlighting the programs funded, at least in part, with those grants.

More than anything, Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado Executive Director David Lee wants teenagers who go through the club's Teen Center to have a plan for their next step.

"College is great, we want them to go to college, but it's more important that you have a plan," he said. "We also need plumbers and mechanics and electricians, all kinds of trades that there's a shortfall in right now. Not only that, here in South Arkansas with all of the industry we have, there are plenty of opportunities to make a really good living."

To that end, the Teen Center works with industry professionals to interact with club members and takes teens on trips to local universities, community colleges and trade schools. Lee said that while most of these teens live within a few miles of some of these institutions, many are visiting them — and considering them a potential opportunity — for the first time.

"We took the kids to SAU Tech, and they were just thrilled," Lee said. "[South Arkansas Community College], we visited and they really, thoroughly enjoyed that tour, and it's right in there backyard. I know the schools and SouthArk do a great job of reaching out, but sometimes until you take them there, it's not a reality."

The club is able to prepare teens for the future thanks in part to a SHARE Foundation VIP grant. The Boys & Girls Club will receive a $37,800 grant to help with the center's operations, which include providing homework tutors and mentors, guidance on future education and/or career paths through business collaborations and job shadowing opportunities, according to a SHARE Foundation press release.

Lee said the Teen Center has an average daily attendance of 28 students, with most of them coming from Barton Junior High School and the rest from El Dorado High School. According to Lee, the focus of the relationship between the SHARE Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club is high school graduation and workforce preparation.

"We just want to be a major factor in the workforce here in El Dorado," he said. "I believe, wholeheartedly, that we can do that. I want these kiddoes, when they leave the Boys & Girls Club, to have positive impacts. I want business leaders to want to hire my kids because they know they've been through the Teen Center and have the training they need."

Receiving the support from the SHARE Foundation is always encouraging, Lee noted.

"We have such a good relationship with SHARE," he said. "From an organizational standpoint, the fact that they continue to work with us tells me they believe in what we're doing. Receiving the grant, you get a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that, and appreciation for their organization."

Lee said he's paid close attention to the Violence Intervention Plan over the past three years, and the broader goal of the initiative benefits Boys & Girls Club members in many different areas of their lives.

"We as a community have to steer them in the right direction," he said. "I hear the most from industry leaders that they need employees with better soft skills, the ability to communicate. That takes a human, grown-up role model in their life, not social media, the TV or electronics."

• About the grants: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). The grants, totaling $324,371 dollars, are the organization’s third round of VIP grants and thirty-second round of grant awards overall. With the grant announcement, the SHARE Foundation has now give more than $8 million in grants and strategic initiatives to 91 different nonprofits operating in Union County, according to a press release from the organization. The grants fund items including operations, specific programs, software purchases and more.

SHARE’s VIP program began in 2018 and focuses on six areas: mentoring, re-entry, neighborhood watches/clean neighborhoods, parenting/life skills, jobs/targeted education, and mental health/substance and drug abuse.

For more details on the SHARE Foundation, visit their website at The foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan, it’s strategies and intended outcomes are available to review. Contact Debbie Watts, vice president of community impact at SHARE Foundation at 870-881-9015 for more information or to get involved.

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