Freddy Williams - Boys and Girls Club
There’s a line Freddy Williams, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, likes to drop into conversations: “We’re not your grandfather’s Boys and Girls Club.” Williams, a Florida native who’s been in the position since 2016 (after serving in the top spot for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake and Sumter counties) emphasizes that today’s clubs are so much more than the warm, caring, safe place for young people – with caring adults – offering recreational and other after-school activities. That, of course, is still the case but among other things they’ve added grade-level reading programs, expanded food service (hot catered meals at all locations) and workforce readiness, to ensure kids have job skills. Williams is also dedicated to deepening partnerships with other bay area nonprofits. He is a board member at the Pinellas Community Foundation, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and others.
Joe Hamilton 0:07
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Joining me today on SPX is the President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast. Freddie Williams Welcome sir.
Freddy Williams 0:56
Hi, I’m glad to be here, Joe.
Joe Hamilton 0:58
So we’re really interested to dive in, you have a good spot at the front lines of raising kids and the state of being a kid in the world today. And the Boys and Girls Club plays an incredibly important role in some kids lives. And they played that same role in your life when you were a kid as well. So to get rolling, I’m sure everybody’s heard of Boys and Girls Club. But can you give us a quick overview of the program? So we know what we’re working with? And then we’ll get immediately deeper?
Freddy Williams 1:26
Well, a lot of people know what Boys and Girls Clubs are, but they don’t necessarily know what we do. They know that we help a lot of kids, but don’t necessarily know the magic that happens behind our doors and Boys and Girls Clubs. So in short, we work with school aged kids, every single day, when school’s out, we have a saying when when school’s out, clubs are in so every day after school, before school, during holiday breaks, spring break, summer break, and so forth. And we really focus in on three things, we want to make sure kids live a healthy lifestyle, they become good character, they have good character and live as good citizens in society with a strong academic foundation. So we have programs that are centered around that to help them with their immediate needs, but also put them on a path where success in the future.
Joe Hamilton 2:12
So logistically, then they’re leaving school and going directly to a Boys and Girls Club location and, and hanging out there. And that’s where the programming happens until they they end up heading home after that around six, usually,
Freddy Williams 2:24
Exactly. So every single day, we pick kids up from school, and we provide transportation, they arrive at our boys and girls clubs, we give them a healthy snack, to re energize them, there then greeted with one of more than 30 certified teachers that we have that work in Boys and Girls Clubs, to help them with their homework. And then we get into the subset of activities.
Joe Hamilton 2:49
So let’s talk a little bit about the selection process for how does how does a kid end up able to come to the club.
Freddy Williams 2:57
So we don’t we don’t promote this often. But there’s no tests that you have to pass to enter a Boys and Girls Club. Our boys and girls clubs are affordable, we never turn a child away for the inability to pay. And because of that our demographic is primarily kids are on free reduced lunch. We hate to use the word at risk, but at risk populations. And we purposely don’t use that word. Because when kids walk inside of our boys and girls clubs are getting world class experiences, whether it’s catered meals or work support from certified teachers. So yeah, that’s that’s the way that they attend our clubs, parents sign them up, over 95% of our kids are on some sort of scholarship to put things in perspective, our annual operating budget is a little more than $9 million per year. Yet, we collect less than $40,000 a year in fees from kids that pay $25 a year to attend our boys and girls club. And that’s because we want kids that have and parents have some ownership. But we don’t want the $25 to be a barrier to them having access to our programs.
Joe Hamilton 4:07
And I think that’s an interesting first point to kind of dig into, you know, call it skin in the game. And obviously, as you said, you don’t want anyone to not have access to a service because they can’t pay. Most people can pay at least a little something like that. $25 for a year isn’t isn’t too bad. Can you talk about the strategy around the parent having skin in the game and sort of what you’ve seen in instances where they don’t and how it changes when they do?
Freddy Williams 4:39
Yeah, so we one of the beauties of our boys and girls clubs is parents pick up their kids every day after school. So we have the ability to engage with them. They have to come inside to physically pick up the kids and give us an opportunity to be able to talk about how their day was inside the boys and girls can up. And because we pick the kids up from school, we also have an opportunity to talk about how their day was at school. So we serve as as conduit between the parents who are working and in the schools who are with the kids every single day, and allows us have greater engagement. So we take a team approach to ensuring the kids academic performance and academic goals are being met with both the parents and the local schools.
Joe Hamilton 5:24
So you know, with with that, you know, one of the challenges that teachers face, and that they would assume that you face as well is that you, you have an environment that you’re sort of controlling that environment and can do all these wonderful things. And, and then a lot of times, they may go out into the wide world, whether it be home life or neighborhood or peer groups that can have forces that counteract the work that you’re doing. And so, you know, can you speak to sort of the, you know, how much of an impact that has on your, your programming strategy and and what you’ve found as the, you know, the biggest challenges and successes in having what you do reach beyond just the time you have them?
Freddy Williams 6:05
Yeah, so we have a strategy, what we call 615, is, in essence, that kids are awake, roughly 6000 hours a year, of that about 1000 hours per year are spent in the schools, there’s about 5000 other hours that kids need to be accounted for somewhere. And that’s where it’s whether it’s at home, whether it’s on sports teams, or Boys and Girls Clubs, and we really try to hone in on those external factors as part of that 5000 hours. And the way in which we do that is we tried to create an intrinsic value for what we want kids to do to be successful in life. So creating an intrinsic value for education, understanding the importance of being able to read at grade level, understanding, and giving them exposure to different career opportunities. So they can truly see this as a pathway for success. It’s not a matter of doing what they’re told this is doing something that they want to do. And generally, what that allows them to do is when they have when they have the ability to make choices, when they’re outside of boys and girls about their school or their home or their church, they generally will stay on the straight and narrow. And there’s evidence with some of our data for the last four years of the 10s of 1000s of Boys and Girls Club kids that we serve, not one of our youth were arrested. And we’re able to substantiate that because of a wonderful partnership we have with both the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Juvenile Justice, where we get a notification if our kids have negative interaction with law enforcement. So if we find out kids are, were arrested, we were able to get notified within 24 hours. And because we haven’t received any notifications, we know kids are doing pretty well, whenever they’re not in the clubs or at school.
Joe Hamilton 7:53
No, that’s that. Well, then, in You, yourself participated in the Boys and Girls Club. So as we sort of dig into the user experience, can you talk about what you remember of being in the club and sort of specifically starting out when you first enter the club, you know, how you felt? Before you did and then how you felt immediately after you did?
Freddy Williams 8:12
Yeah, so the best way to describe my experience at the Boys and Girls Club was family. It was a family away from my family. But what really drew me into the club was, it was a fun place to be, we have a lot of really cool alumni that have gone through Boys and Girls Club, Denzel Washington, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan. So this was like a cool place that some pretty cool people grew up in. And that’s what the draw was. And then once I was in the fun place, there were caring adults that cared about who I was as a kid. And by having those deeply meaningful relationships with the caring adults, that allowed me that whenever I needed some additional support as a kid, they could kind of guide me back in the right direction. And there’s a point in which I remember, in high school being told I wasn’t going to graduate from high school, because I was getting in trouble in school. And I remember the club reminded me that my mouth was either going to get myself in trouble, or do get in the world, and I need to make sure my mouth did some good in the world. And then they were able to take that understanding of who Freddie was with a an instance that when summer we lost all of our field trips, because we lost funding. And as the club director will, why did we how can we can’t go on field trips. And they said, Well, we lost funding. I mean, what does that even mean? What does it mean to lose funding? And they explained what I learned in school through the civics process and having budget appropriations, and able to make the connection of us not being able to have a fun experience because of the legislative appropriation. I said when I grow up, I want to make sure funding is never taken away from kids because it is not right. And the director was able to immediately said, well here could be an opportunity to use your mouth for some good So I knew I wanted to be a lobbyist when I graduated from high school. And it was enough to help me graduate from high school go on to college, had a little bit interesting turn because I loved the political process, but didn’t like politics. So got involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs immediately after college. And after the Great Recession, or during the Great Recession, and after the 2008 election, joined the staff, and I knew this was my calling and what I should be doing. And I’ve been trying to use my mouth for some good ever since.
Joe Hamilton 10:30
That’s great. And I think of 10 years total between Lake and Sumter counties, almost four years there. And over six years now, in in our area here as a leader of a chapter or a club.
Freddy Williams 10:42
Yeah, yeah. So I was on the fast track leadership journey. Now that I’m, I’m 38, I can kind of wear this as a badge of honor. But I became a CEO of a Boys and Girls Club, when I was 28 years old, had no idea what I was doing, but knew I loved kids and loved our mission. And that kind of carried me through. And fortunately, the community, let me learn along the way. And along the way, also realize that running a multimillion dollar organization, nonprofit is just as complicated if not more complicated than running a multimillion dollar business. So I went back to school and got my MBA, and I find myself continuously a lifelong student, to see how I can be the best version of myself. So we can help kids be the best version of themselves.
Joe Hamilton 11:32
You know, for someone who has lived the Boys and Girls Club life as long as you have, and they’re so deeply connected to the the impact it can have. And its mission. It’s interesting when you you know, essentially as as a business and as a fundraiser competing against other organizations that are making an impact as well. It’s an interesting, it’s not just, you know, I sell widgets, and company B sells widgets, and you’re just, you know, you’re just doing just doing battle to sell more widgets, but you actually have to run a business where your competition is also serving a mission. And, and then on top of that, you have to quantify your results as well. So, you know, how have you made the transition in handle the line between impact and, you know, knowing that every, every good decision you make impacts more lives, you know, to competing in the nonprofit world as an exec?
Freddy Williams 12:20
Yeah, thank you. That’s a very insightful question. So we are very data focused. And we have made a shift over the last few years going from being outcome intended to outcome focused. And what I mean by that is that we knew we served a lot of kids that kids were generally doing, okay. But we wanted to have a deeper dive to understand what lead indicators lead to the outcomes that we’re trying to accomplish, and then acting on those different indicators. So it can be something as small as kids having the optimal club experience inside of our boys and girls clubs will, how do we quantify that? And then how do we make sure that the behaviors and our resources are aligned to that. And what it’s allowed us to do is to when we look at donor dollars, or we look at institutional funding dollars, or Government Appropriations, we can show greater certainty of how the dollar is invested in a specific area that can produces some type of outcome. So if we know that it roughly costs us $900 per kid per year, to go through our literacy program, it’s not a matter of $900 their donors, in essence, able to buy an outcome, and making sure that we’re training our teams along the ways to understand what those lead measures are, and to ensure that we’re able to effectively promote and demonstrate with those lead indicators are, but most importantly, if we fall short on assumption of a data point that we have, making sure that we can recognize the beauty that comes with falling short, that we can reorient ourselves and have a true continuous improvement, focus and getting better.
Joe Hamilton 13:59
And how, how good does the world do the funders do at valuing the right KPIs? You know, I’m sure as you as you went through that process, you probably had data or, you know, outcomes that you felt internally were hugely important. But that may, maybe at first blush, don’t resonate with the funders, you know, so was there a gap there between, you know, what you really wanted people to understand about the true impact that you saw and what was more generally accepted? And were you able to close that gap. How did that sort of play out?
Freddy Williams 14:30
Yeah. So, you know, it’s interesting in our Tampa Bay market, our funders are on the same journey that we’re on. And we, we talked to them many times as partners, because they are on the same journey to better understand what indicators and lead measures are, what outcomes we should be measuring. So they’ve been very receptive to innovating with us trying new things, and understanding as long as we can move the bottom line outcome that we’re trying to accomplish and stay focus on that it’s okay maybe not to have as fast or year over year rate of change that we may have hoped. So the funding community has been very, very, very open to the way in which we’re innovating and becoming data focused. We also have the pleasure of having our current board chairman Jeff Tanzer is an executive with the Tampa Bay Rays. And a fun fact is Boys and Girls Clubs of America is the official charity partner of MLB. And what that allows us to do is see how we can take best practices of big data that are seen in professional sports, and apply them into our boys and girls club model and the ways that we, we generate impact. So we have dashboards and we relate them to baseball all the time to see who’s leaning off first and wants to steal second and what the, for the the bottom of the ninth and down around and being able to use the different measures. Additionally, we have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful board of directors that come from very diverse backgrounds. So what allows us to do is take these best practices, whether it be in financial services, or technology, professional sports, to see how they’re driving business performance, to inform the way we drive business performance in Boys and Girls Clubs.
Joe Hamilton 16:20
Interesting, a little Sabermetrics and Moneyball, for for. So, in the 10 years, as you look at these, these, this data, and you know, the 10 years you’ve had in a leadership role, and then potentially even back to when you were a participant, what’s what’s been the most noteworthy emotional behavioral evolution in kids in that time? What’s, what are the what are the new problems? Are the new stresses they have today? That they didn’t have that and obviously, social media and our connectivity is that going to be at the root of that, but as deeply as you can dig into that, I’d really appreciate hearing your your insight.
Freddy Williams 17:00
Yes. So there are things that kids have never had to grapple with, or perhaps they have been grappling them with them, but it wasn’t noticed or we weren’t – Our trauma informed practices weren’t as refined as they are now that allows us to identify these things. But the trauma that kids are going through in the ways that they manage through it, directly related to mental health are things that I’ve I never would have imagined, over the course of my career. And this has become even heightened more through the pandemic. You know being a CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs in 10 years, it wasn’t until the pandemic that we’ve ever had to Baker Act, a kid inside of a Boys and Girls Club, in fact that we’ve had three kids over the last couple of years that we’ve had to provide support to because they’ve wanted to end their lives. And it forces us to ensure we give the necessary supports to ensure kids are able to respond and, and live a healthier lifestyle. So we partner with organizations differently. So we had during the pandemic had a great partnership with Dr. LaDonna Butler and the wealth for life, where we were able to provide over 500 therapy sessions at no cost to our boys and girls club members. Being a data person we found, we were able to measure the impact of that over 94% of the kids that participated in these therapy sessions increased their resiliency and coping skills as a result of this. And but most importantly, I created a trauma informed culture within our organization. So our staff were best equipped to know how to recognize and respond to the emerging needs that kids have. We now made this a mandatory practice or mandatory requirement that all of our staff in the Boys and Girls Club must be first aid, mental health and first aid certified. So the same way you back in the day where you had counselors that summer camp counselors that were CPR certified to take kids to the pool, we now want to make sure that our staff, are mental health certified to make sure they’re best responding to kids in need.
Joe Hamilton 19:24
And when you kind of look at the roots, I mean, this is sort of probably stating the obvious, but just you know, to see if it resonates the idea was maybe 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, you know, the the the amount of inputs that a kid had were kind of limited to the school, the local peer group, the you know, the parents, local family neighborhood and you know, maybe Boys and Girls Club, and you might have then had you know, to counteract some some negative influences in their peer group or like I said in the home life, but now it’s essentially a whole world of have, you know through the internet and through social media, a whole world of potential negative influences that you kind of have to counteract now? Is that sort of a, maybe a key change and what’s made this need to cope so much more prolific?
Freddy Williams 20:13
Yeah, it certainly has. In fact, we’ve recently launched an additional programs suite to better respond to that. One thing we learned during the pandemic and kind of leveraging a lesson learned was the ability of kids to be able to connect virtually so whenever we couldn’t open our boys and girls clubs because it wasn’t safe because of the Coronavirus. We created YouTube channels that we created, Zoom touchpoints. And what we’ve been able to do is to formalize an actual virtual platform that is now one of our fastest growing program areas in our organization. And so kids are able to connect with our teachers and counselors through what we call a club reimagined every single day. So they’re able to still stay connected to Boys and Girls Club in a positive place. And the platform that we use to ensure that there’s an they can be emotionally safe, which by the way, is a great indicator for optimal club experience is that we utilize bots and technology that are able to help us monitor the rooms in addition to our staff that are in the these virtual rooms as well, we find that our teams are the greatest users of this platform, which is consistent with them using digital devices and social media and so forth, as a way to engage. So what we’re now doing is we’re now coupling this digital platform in which younger kids have access to, but really focusing on those digital platforms to ensure that our teams can connect to give them job ready skills. So that’s kind of the carrot that they have the engagements, you know, they’re developing skills, we’re giving them placed in jobs, we’re giving them internships and using this club reimagined digital platform to do that.
Joe Hamilton 22:02
And the technology, obviously, the pandemic, somewhat forced for everyone forward a little bit. But it does kind of potentially change a lot of the DNA of the Boys and Girls Club, what do you see as the future potential of virtual services, it allows you to branch outside and have a roots in to the kids beyond the time they’re with you, potentially allows you you know, especially for older kids who are able to be home alone to have some influence on their life while they are home alone. How exciting is that, or how much more work is that and how does that path look?
Freddy Williams 22:41
It’s very exciting, because it allows us to create a a warm handoff for kids that attend our facility based clubs. One of our challenges have been for years is that we are at capacity at most of our boys and girls clubs. So this allows us to have a new outlet to continue to serve even more kids through the virtual platform. So really focusing on neighborhood based clubs for kindergarten through sixth grade, where kids really need to have safe care while parents work. And as kids can make choices and seventh grade, they get more involved in school and so forth. Seventh grade on, we have a more refined program through our our virtual club. But also one thing that was a consequence of this is it allows kids to look beyond their zip code and their community and the Tampa Bay region. So it’s not allowed Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast to now expand beyond just Pinellas County in the Tampa Bay region, we now are working with a cohort of Boys and Girls Clubs in the southern New Jersey market, also working with Boys and Girls Clubs. Now launching in the Memphis market, where boys and girls club members are able to have a cohort of kids that they can connect with. And we’re doing this with TD Synex formerly Tech Data, where kids are now working in the different companies. It’s just it’s a really, really innovative approach that allows kids to to look beyond the four walls and, and frankly, it allows us to not only grow but as I mentioned earlier about the efficiency of the better the best use of donor dollars. This is a very efficient way for us to be able to bring a massive scale but still maintaining our core competency of serving kids and also helps us test our mission statement beyond kids graduating from high school because now if we want to prepare them for the future, we can better measure the skills and take more of a longitudinal approach.
Joe Hamilton 24:37
Yeah, that’s great. And I assume it would also open up a ton of granularity when it comes to expertise and specific knowledge. So you have a kid in one club whose wants is really in the animals and maybe there’s a staff member and another club on another state that’s a vet and can you can match those two and and and even make that the career understanding experience even deeper into that sort of across the board for interests and, and different things with the kids.
Freddy Williams 25:06
Joe Hamilton 25:07
You mentioned the word emotionally safe when you were talking about the bots that the monitored the room. And that’s just one tool in the toolbox for monitoring emotional safety. I do think, potentially a lot of folks listening to this, you know, may have kids or no kids and the world that they’re parenting in, or nephew, uncle in or whatever is different because of social media. So, you know, as best as you can, and how you instruct the staff or how the, you know, the programs are built? What are the key elements of emotional safety? You know, what are some of the signs that that that a kid is safe or a sign that they’re not safe, especially as it as it relates to that sort of online world that that caregivers are stakeholders in the kids lives may not have insight into?
Freddy Williams 25:57
Yeah, so one of the one of the greatest indicators is engagement. If kids are engaged, and they’re not moving away from their typical engagement, that’s usually a pretty good indicator of whether or not they’re in emotionally unsafe environment, and the way we drive engagement. And I’m an older millennial, but so this acronym resonates with me, but it doesn’t necessarily resonate as much with our younger or younger staff. But we utilize a concept called Buic, and like the cars, so what we do is we ensure that kids have a sense of belonging, a sense of usefulness, a sense of influence, and a sense of competence. And if we can provide an environment that allows for those four different elements, it’s usually a pretty good way to engage them, if you know, especially as kids are in vulnerable places. And it’s just a matter of giving them voice and making sure that they are being heard, and they can influence. And it’s critically important for for anyone who’s working with young people to understand that they can provide the sense of belonging usefulness, influence and competence. And it can look a lot different, but as long as you can follow those four things, a Buic, it can really help provide some engagement for kids.
Joe Hamilton 27:22
And the interesting one in there, for me, is usefulness. You know, I think belonging makes sense. I think, you know, being heard and having your opinions valued influence makes sense. And I think competence being being good, or, you know, but usefulness is kind of an interesting one. So, does that does that give me give me full license to just load on the chores for the kids at my house?
Freddy Williams 27:44
Within reason and appropriateness.
Joe Hamilton 27:49
Yeah, so can you can you talk a little bit about how you help kids to feel useful?
Freddy Williams 27:54
Yeah. So, you know, the best way to relate this for for parents, or anyone who’s working with kids is, it’s very easy to, to draw parallel to employees or teams, and utilizing the same concept. So generally secret’s out. Buic also works for team engagement with adults as well. But generally on a team or your employees, if you can make them feel useful, and generally feel useful. It also allows them to become more competent, as well and great, have additional confidence. So we’re always looking for ways for young people to see how they can be useful within the club, whether we give them small leadership experiences and build off the leadership experience, and help them reinforce that positive behavior. So it’d be matter of, Hey, you did a wonderful job leading, you know, we call it chilling with books. As kids work and literacy program, did a great job doing it, you were such a great role model in building off of that to help them with their confidence. They know that how they can see they were useful within the club environment and useful within the programs is tremendous. Something else that we do is we allow our kids to have voice in our programs, so they can see how the the the feedback they’re giving us can actually be implemented inside of our programs. One thing we also do is we give a catered meal inside of our clubs every single day. So we bring in catered meals, so kids don’t leave our clubs hungry and giving them the ability to give give us feedback on the meals and what’s on the menu. And then we can create another feedback loop to say hey, we want to make sure your wall you would love to have Flaming Hot Cheetos every single day for dinner at our meals. We need to live healthy lifestyles and here’s some of the different food groups that we need to provide. So so it’s, it’s critically important.
Joe Hamilton 29:54
And one other area I wanted to dig into. You talked about preparing kids for careers and a certain element of that is just letting them know that these possibilities exist. You know, one of the one of the things, I believe that that people who are in a place of privilege underestimate is just simply the openness to knowing that that one can do things, right. It’s sort of jumping up that socio economic ladder or achievement ladder or whatever. You know, if you agree with that, how big of a role does that play? And, you know, how real is the weight of just not understanding for the, for these kids, whether it comes from systemic racism or socio economic downward pressure, because of where they’ve come from, you know, how important is it to just bring that expansiveness, in that, that possibility that, hey, this is out there, and you have access to it?
Freddy Williams 30:53
Yeah, it’s very important. So we always say internally, it’s hard for kids to be what they don’t see. So it’s our job to ensure that we can give them exploration at a very, very early age. So we used to have our junior staff program started in high school, we’ve actually moved it down as early as sixth grade because research shows that kids start having career inquiry and their need for exploration as early in fifth and sixth grade. So what we do is every summer, we give kids a eight week exploration process, where we expose them to different career fields. So we expose them to career fields and skilled trade, we expose them in financial services, tech, healthcare, marine sciences. And while every one of them don’t necessarily say, hey, I want to be marine biologists, just being able to have the exposure to that, to know that there are several different career spin offs that can happen. But also getting back to this idea of making sure that kids see that this is a great place to be, we remind them that these kids, when they’re in our programs, are gaining competitive advantage. They’re getting experiences through these internships to see and be around business leaders that their peers may not have a chance to see and to take advantage of that, and understand the value of networking and building relationships. So they see this as a tool where they can help you to become more successful moving forward. Also, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, has cited that there’s going to be a significant amount of jobs that will be created in the state of Florida, by 2030, many of which have not been created yet. So by teaching kids and giving them the exploration is that they may not necessarily say hey, I want to be a marine science, or I want to be a doctor or a electrical engineer, but at least being able to understand the foundational skills that need to be developed that can be transferable. So whenever it is 2030, they’re in the best position possible to be able to have a meaningful career. And at the end of the day, is one of the great differentiators to help in generational poverty.
Joe Hamilton 33:10
It’s great in sort of moving, moving that concept out to a broader level or a wider perspective. You know, if if folks are looking to understand what the greatest limiters are, you know, or maybe phrase a different way, if you could sort of wave a magic wand into the, you know, into communities or families or peer groups or even, you know, the education system. What what do you think is the lever that if it could be improved or changed, that would have the most return an impact on that on that level of being tweak?
Freddy Williams 33:48
That’s a very complex question. And I’m going to try to give it a simple answer. I think that one of the greatest things that we can provide young people with particularly from underserved communities is relationship equity. So they are able to have a shot and get their foot in the door. But also ensuring that you have equipped these young people along the way, that while they get their foot in the door, they know the most effective way to continue to maintain and grow once they get their foot in the door. I was recently at an event with a business leader Danny Prasad. And he reminded me he’s a Boys and Girls Club alumni. He said Friday, you know, there’s something I think there’s an opportunity for young people and Boys and Girls Club and it really resonated. He said, You know, you can’t be afraid to get on the dance floor. I was like, Well, what do you mean by that? He said, You know, you know, look at you and I there’s not a whole lot of folks that look like you and I that are at this event. But if we were limited to knowing that it was this wasn’t a place is that we should be, and we didn’t have the confidence to be here, we there will be missed opportunities that would allow us to help grow ourselves in our career and professionally. And personally, it’s important to make sure that we can give kids the confidence to get on the dance floor, and when they get on the dance floor to be able to shine. And so part of that is having the relationship being able to give kids relationship equity to get on the dance floor, but also equipping them along the way through Buic and other youth development strategies, so that they can have the confidence and ability to be successful. Getting back to the workforce program, we have something that we were keenly aware of was that there’s this great need for a talent pipeline for local businesses to thrive, we talk to donors and, and our corporate supporters, and they say, you know, I can only grow my business, if I had the ability to hire and expand. When we talk to boys and girls club kids, I said, if I can only get my foot in the door to work in a business, it would be the end all be all for me, and I’d be able to live a great a great life. So now we’re finding a way that we can take the needs and abilities for young people replace them with the the corporate necessity of businesses through pipelines, is a beautiful thing when we can marry them together. But recognizing that there is a science and an art to ensure that young people that are in Boys and Girls Clubs, were able to match their their culture, with corporate expectations and, and putting them in an environment to be able to thrive. And also saying how their culture and the rich experiences and backgrounds they have is a great differentiator that helps make any business become more have greater depth and be more successful.
Joe Hamilton 36:44
That’s great. It’s good insight. Wonderful, well, it’s a lot of great information, I very much appreciate you sharing it, you know what I want to finish up by talking about your, your personal journey, you know, as a as a member, as a as a participant in the club. Now, you know, you’re devoted a significant proportion of your adult and professional life to the Boys and Girls Club, you know, feels very much like you’re all in and when you sort of make that that kind of deep life choice to to dig in as deeply as you have to one subject to become an expert on to become a leader in it, to be able to drive innovation, talk about how you know at peace you are slash invigorated, you know, by this by this, this path you’ve chosen.
Freddy Williams 37:31
So the hardest part is making sure that I can govern myself and my energy because I wake up every single morning, jumping out of bed, ready for an opportunity to be able to help save a kid because I know that any given day at any given time, a child we can completely change a child’s trajectory. And I think back to a moment in time earlier in the program where I mentioned, I was told I was going to graduate from high school, my club director told me something I will never forget. So at a time when I wanted to leave the Boys and Girls Club and talk about different indicators of, of kids needing to be in an emotionally safe environment, the boys and girls club started giving me more work. And I was like, Hey, I just want to play like why do I have to do my homework. And when I do my homework, you give me more work. And they said Freddy, we want you to remember this, I expect more out of you, because I think more of you. And going back to think of how at the time that it really didn’t make a lot of sense. And now as an adult one, understanding that kids, we have this unique opportunity to pour into kids, and they will hold on to your every word, and never missing the opportunity to be able to provide that because a mentor at the time probably had no idea the profound effect that that would make on me, and even some of the same, my leadership philosophies on servant leadership and understanding that I need to model the behavior that we’d like to see within our employees, inspiring a shared vision and encouraging the heart, so forth and so on. We’re all learning at the Boys and Girls Club. So having the ability to wake up every single day to provide an opportunity to lead a staff that can help develop kids, oh, man, it gets no better than that.
Joe Hamilton 39:17
And I have to ask one follow up to that, you know, you said that you jump out of bed every morning, and you have a joy to that to the possibility that you can do it would be fair to you know, someone who’s on the front line of the need that’s out there to have an anxiety about that. So how do you stay on the joy side of that versus the anxiety side of that?
Freddy Williams 39:37
I think because we know that we can provide a solution. There’s a lot a lot of challenges kids face and pressures kids face, but boys and girls clubs have the ability to be a solution for that. And I think understanding that we can be a solution is a great motivator for frontline. We have roughly a little more than 30 certified teachers that work on our staff that are current teachers in the Pinellas County school system. And what’s what’s great with this partnership with our local school system is that teachers have the ability to provide the fundamental pieces at the schools, as teachers, but having the Boys and Girls Club is the ability to have that little extra of that help ensure that that they can be part of the solution. And much of our leadership, our club directors and our team, our longtime boys and girls, club professionals, so this isn’t just a career, so calling for many of them. And it’s just, it’s just a great, great honor and privilege. In fact, you know, funny story. So my wife is a lawyer, and she owns a law practice. And sometimes I know, I know, I’m living and doing the right thing in my career, because sometimes my wife says, Sometimes I hear you talk, I wish I work for boys and girls club too. And I think I think people can, they can feel the authenticity, and that that I have, and it’s just not a this is a cool career stop. And, and we try to make sure that all of our employees, we bring them on, believe and feel that same culture, and and the need to make the community a better place. We know we can’t do it all by ourselves. But we do know working with our partners, the school systems, parents, that collectively, we really can, I know you didn’t ask this. But when we look at measure performance, one of the greatest indicator one of the greatest outcomes that we look at as an organization is not that, you know, yeah, it’s great that majority of our kids read at grade level, and they’re doing better than the graduate from high school and staying out of trouble. But we look at community wide outcomes. What is the rate of change for graduation rate? What’s the rate of change of on time grade progression? And what’s the rate of change of Grade Level Reading, and also juvenile detention rates, kids being arrested? And what that does, it forces us to govern ourselves much differently, and not seeing our partners as competition but rather true partners to see how we can help provide and leverage one another. We say, our leadership team, if we were Pinellas County or Tampa Bay Incorporated, how would we operate? And it wouldn’t be that we’re in direct competition with this youth serving organization? It should be. There’s a lot of kids in our region. There’s a lot of kids in PInellas County, a lot of kids in St. Pete, and how can we collectively work together to give them all the best experiences possible,
Joe Hamilton 42:31
very smart like that? Well, first, congratulations on finding a path that has you jumping out of bed every day and how lucky for the community that that particular path also helps other people do that exact same thing and in their in their journey. So we’d benefit greatly from that. Really appreciate the energy authenticity and sharing your insights with us. Freddie Williams, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Club. Thanks for stopping by.
Freddy Williams 42:58
Thanks, Joehappy to be here. Thanks again.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai