Socialization is generally thought of as being an essential part of human development in that its importance is often times disregarded. However, understanding socialization can be a complicated and enduring process. “Sociologists use the term socialization to refer to the lifelong social experience by which people develop their human potential and learn culture” (Macionis, 2011, 68). Humans need social experience to acquire the skills needed to learn their culture and for survival. “Social experience is also the basis of personality, a person’s fairly consistent patterns of acting, thinking and feeling. We build a personality by internalizing – taking in – our surroundings” (Macionis, 2011, 68). When an individual is lacking social experience, personality seldom develops. People usually rely on others for assistance when their children are growing physically and emotionally but most importantly as their personality is developing. Many theorists have focused on childhood as being the most critical time when personality is formed; however, Erik H. Erikson’s eight stages of development have set apart that focus and places emphasis on socialization throughout the life course as being the most influential (Macionis, 2011). Erikson centralized that challenges are faced throughout the life course fluctuating from infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, preadolescence, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood to old age even though not everyone faces these challenges in the exact order (Macionis, 2011). In summary, Erikson’s stages of development model calls attention to how several factors, including the family, school and peer groups, shape our personalities.
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Since socialization is a learning process that begins after birth and is learned throughout an individual’s life span, a common question is how can people be socialized? Looking around the world, we see that different cultures used different techniques to socialize their children both formal and informally through school and peer groups. As we age, we enter new statuses and need to learn the appropriate roles for them. Across America, there are many national organizations that have been organized to provide programs for young people that help with maintaining socialization skills that have been embedded amongst our youth. “The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a national organization of local chapters which provide after-school programs for young people” (http://www.bgca.org). The first Boys’ Club was founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1860 after a group of women noticed how young boys from needy families would hang out on the streets after school because they didn’t have anywhere else to go. The club was created to provide them with a safe place to play. By 1906, there were fifty-three independent Boys’ Clubs that came together in Boston for form a national organization known as the Federated Boys’ Clubs. After many years, the organization renamed itself Boys’ Clubs of America and in 1990 renamed itself to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. There are currently over 4,000 autonomous local Clubs, which are affiliates of the national organization and serve over four million boys and girls. Clubs can be found in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and on US Military Bases. In 2010, member percentages included: 65% are from minority families, 5% are 5 years old and under, 43% are 6-10 years old, 19% are 11-12 years old, 21% are 13-15 years old, 12% are 16-18 years old, 55% are male and 45% are female (http://www.bgca.org).
The Boys & Girls Clubs are a safe place to learn and grow. “It is the place where great futures are started each and every day” (http://www.bgca.org). The goals set forth by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America basically includes their mission statement which reads “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens” (http://www.bgca.org). The organization gives young people a safe and supervised environment, an especially important task as more and more families have needed to work multiple jobs and cannot be home for their children. They also encourage kids to get involved in activities, learn team skills, and associate with people they might not meet at school or in their neighborhood. Many clubs offer an after school program as well as an extended summer program, giving kids a real opportunity to make friends and be involved in the programs and services offered at the clubs (http://www.wisegeek.com). Their core beliefs are for “The Boys & Girls Club to aspire to provide all young people with a safe place to learn and grow, and establish ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals by providing them with life enhancing programs and character development experiences” (http://www.bgca.org).
There are many strategies that have been implemented by The Boys & Girls Clubs of America each help youth in distinctive ways. The Education & Career Programs which help youth create aspirations for the future, providing opportunities for career exploration and educational enhancement. The Character & Leadership Programs which help youth become responsible, caring citizens and acquire skills for participating in the democratic process. The Health & Life Skills Programs in which those initiatives develop young people’s capacity to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being, set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient adults. The Arts Programs which are programs in this core area that enable youth to develop their creativity and cultural awareness through knowledge and appreciation of the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing. The Sports, Fitness and Recreation Programs which help develop fitness, a positive use of leisure time, reduction of stress, appreciation for the environment and social and interpersonal skills. The Specialized Programs in which these initiatives focus on meeting the significant and specific needs identified within the Boys & Girls Clubs. This broad scope complements several or all of their core program areas within the organization.
According to Kidzworld, the Boys & Girls Clubs are community based and building centered. “Since 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. is the time of day when children are usually unsupervised, The Boys & Girls Clubs run their programs after school, and on weeknights and weekends” (http://www.kidzworld.com). The Clubs provide a safe and affordable place for these programs to run; all the while, clubs do charge a monthly or seasonal fee and some assistance may be available to families in need (Ellis, 2003-2012). The Clubs are led by trained, paid youth-development professionals. Signing your child or young friend up for the club can make a positive impact in every area of their life.
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The Boys & Girls Clubs of America provide young people with a safe learning environment and opportunities to build new skills that raise each child’s belief that he or she can succeed and receive recognition for personal accomplishments. They also assist in building ongoing relationships with caring adults and connections to new friends in a positive environment, reinforcing a sense of belonging, personal accountability, civility and civic responsibility. Finally, they offer generation-changing programs that support a commitment to learning, positive values, healthy habits and high expectations for success as an adult. Many people credit The Boys & Girls Clubs with changing their children’s direction in life or teaching them vital skills. “The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Boys & Girls Clubs of America number one among youth organizations for the 13th consecutive year, and number 12 among all nonprofit organizations” (http://www.bgca.org).
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