Thousands of kids and teens have found support, encouragement, and a secure place for learning at the Boys & Girls Club of the Golden Triangle.
With locations in Columbus, Starkville, and West Point in Mississippi, the non-profit organization provides programs that help young people, especially those in underserved communities, feel a sense of belonging. Participants can also get educational support and opportunities to develop their interests in sports, music, and more. But like many similar organizations, the Boys & Girls Club of the Golden Triangle struggled to keep its doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The club serves three school districts, so pausing its operations would have had an impact on the many students who attend its programs.
“We had to work through the crisis and come up with a new plan and implementation strategy for our team,” says President and CEO Ron Thornton. This was made easier by the fact that the club already had technology in place to move some activities online.
“We went from full to one-third of our capacity, but we managed to stay open. By doing some of our programs online using video conferencing systems like BlueJeans, we gave many of our members continued access to our various activities.”
This change in strategy has also given the club new ways to engage young people while gaining more flexibility in delivering its programs.
Providing a Safe Space for Young People — Virtually
Previously, the team at the Boys & Girls Club of the Golden Triangle used a different meeting platform. When the pandemic hit, they initially stuck with it for virtual lessons and student activities. But on the recommendation of their Verizon agent, they switched to BlueJeans Meetings.
“I used it for a video call and was impressed by the ease of use,” says Thornton. “I liked how with BlueJeans, there was a lot less stalling than with our other platform. The audio is very clear, which I really appreciate.”
The club rolled out virtual and hybrid sessions over BlueJeans, using breakout rooms and content sharing features to interact with children and their families.
“We managed to do all that with ease. Whenever students can’t get to our facilities, they can access the different activities happening in person from a phone or another device. So, it’s been vital in staying in touch with students who still haven’t come back to our facilities.”
Enabling Cost Savings and Increasing Participation
BlueJeans Meetings has since become the club’s go-to platform for communication across its three facilities. This allows staff to continue to work together in a hybrid setup and reduces the cost of traveling from one location to another by 10% a month.
“We do mileage reimbursement for our employees, so holding our meetings virtually instead of face to face has delivered cost savings to our organization,” says Thornton.
Notably, since introducing BlueJeans Meetings, he has observed an increase in participation and engagement among staff, volunteers, and even board members at club meetings and events. Attendance at these meetings, as well as professional development courses and other internal activities, has increased by 5% by eliminating the inconvenience of physical travel.
This is a welcome change, according to Thornton.
“Everyone is happy with the platform. Many of our team members, especially those with young children, appreciate the flexible setup we’ve provided. They feel that our organization does care,” he says.
“So with BlueJeans, everybody enjoys greater flexibility while still getting the work done to make sure our youth continue to have a safe space to learn and explore new interests.”