In a district with one of the highest school dropout rates on Long Island, the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club works to stem the tide by offering after-school programs and homework help, and by teaching students entrepreneurial and personal branding skills, said executive director Wayne Redman. Last week he opened the club's doors for its 18th year.
Other services offered by the club, which serves more than 150 kids, include mentoring, nutrition workshops and coming-of-age workshops. In 2012 the club, which had served students from elementary through high school, faced a cut in state funding; now it focuses mainly on middle school children. The club also receives private donations from companies and groups including Taco Bell, the Rauch Foundation and the Nassau County Bar Association.
"We're trying to change our model, where if we're now 90 percent [government-funded], we need to grow our private- sector funding to be more like 50/50," said Redman, 59, who comes from a 30-year career in retail sales and marketing with Clairol Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive. He first became involved in the club as a board member and president before becoming executive director in 2008.
What's new this year?
I see us focusing on entrepreneurship. And we're working with a grant from Taco Bell to get kids more exposed to college.
Why did Taco Bell fund this?
You need people that know how to run your business and are business-minded and franchise owners. I think Taco Bell has seen the way the country demographics are changing and says, "We can make a difference and education is so vitally important. Let's see what we can do." The Rauch Foundation is also a funder for our programs in this area.
Why teach entrepreneurial skills to kids?
It's probably the most reliable source of work in the future. When you look at the kids, not everybody's going to be able to go to college. There's no reason why they can't have a skill. An entrepreneur is about being able to market. And these kids need to learn how to market themselves.
When you invent a product, you think: How can it be promoted? Who would you target? How would it be priced? How would you market it? And you take the lessons from developing that product and apply them to yourself. How does your teacher perceive you? How do your friends perceive you? What are you about? What are your strengths, your weaknesses? Are you a good friend? And just try to build on those things so that they become aware of who they actually are and who they want to be.
How do you teach kids to market themselves?
You're your brand. What do you stand for? What are you about and how can you market yourself so that an employer or business will take you on?
What challenges do you face in Hempstead?
We don't have a building. We're in a church, and we're limited to some of the space. We could have a much larger program if we had more space. We'd have a much stronger program if we had our own building. There's also no school bus service from the high school to our program location, so that's difficult.
What do businesses like to fund?
Programs. I think everybody wants to see that the kids are getting a specific program, and they forget sometimes that there are operational costs associated with those programs. Lights have to be on in buildings.
What would you say to the business community?
You have an opportunity as a business person to help solidify your future by engaging and developing a positive future for the kids of Hempstead. And whether it is a donation of your time, your efforts, your experiences or your funds, these are things that you could do to help the Boys and Girls Club of Hempstead. Just come in and see what we do and then try to get involved.
NAME: Wayne Redman, executive director of the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club
WHAT IT DOES: Youth development programs and services
EMPLOYEES: 4 full time, 7 part time