by Bill Thomas
His personality is in what he does.
His work is like being the principal of a school with a curriculum of life expectations, further education, geography, history, math, English, computers, recreation, sports, and social and interpersonal skills.
Describing Kent Campbell, departing Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Club of the South Coast Area, includes the intangibles of organization, caring, and creativity. What he has accomplished in San Clemente during the last 32 years has a direct relationship with the individual growth and positive maturing of the scores of the City’s younger population fortunate enough to be involved with the professional love of his life – The Club.
Born and raised in Indiana, Kent obtained his BA in Management and an MBA in Human Relations at Purdue University. Interested In people, sports, and administering, he ran a boys and girls club in Tennessee for over three years. On March 1, 1982, after successful interviews in an internationally known place he only knew as “the western white house,” he was named director of San Clemente’s recreational club for 400 boys and girls aged six to eighteen. His immediate attention was drawn to increasing the annual budget of $78,000, expanding the structure of 12,000 square feet of sports and activity space, improving the activities and image of the club and building a solid, supportive, involved Board of Directors. He focused on developing a new structure, “organizing it more like a business than a non-profit organization.” His own early experiences as an athlete, coach, and employee of Union Carbide were assets in this personal mission.
Kent said, “We built slowly, recruiting a quality group of directors, recruiting and developing staff, and adding both recreational and educational programs, as well as expanding the facilities.”
He admits to the great support of his family, all educators like Dad. Mother Gail teaches business at Saddleback College, son Troy is obtaining his doctorate in marketing at Duke University and interviewing for professorships, and Casey, with degrees in marketing and education, teaches math at a local middle school.
Today’s numbers and purposes are impressive. One thousand, eight hundred youth are served by a professional staff of 18, eight full-time and 10 part-time. Additionally, besides the Board members, there’s an advisory board of 44, and 300 coaches, tutors, and referee volunteers as support. More than 300 kids are served daily. The 30-member board is a primary source of annual fundraising, each member a contributor. The budget is over one million dollars annually, gained through annual giving campaigns; special events such as the very successful benefit auctions golf tournaments, the Iron Man competition; grants, endowments, and athletic and membership dues, in addition to Board Member contributions.
The primary mission as stated in a Club brochures is “To inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
The three priority outcomes for club members include 1) Academic Success, successfully graduating from high school and preparing for further education or employment; 2) Good Character & Citizenship, being an engaged citizen, involved in the community, a voter and strong character model; and 3) A Healthy Life Style, adopting a healthy diet and commitment to lifelong fitness.
According to Kent, the years have brought numerous accomplishments during his long tenure. His list included: a physical organization chart, doubling the size of the Club, improving its image, serving a cross section of the community, providing “a home away from home” for kids, members loving the Club, kids having fun within a structure, educating, forming athletic leagues, providing character-building programs, and having a great staff, great board, supportive funding, and a league supporting scholarships. Again, his organizational abilities are obvious to all and greatly appreciated.
The building structure has grown as well. The facility is now 25,000 square feet, including two gymnasiums, a teen center, games room, learning center, computer lab, arts and crafts center, TV lounge, a kitchen, meeting rooms and offices. It also has an outdoor playground and exterior basketball courts.
Most of the current full time staff members have been with the B&GClub for 13 or more years and several started as members as children. According to Kent each of them possesses the following personal traits: positive attitude, dependability, assertiveness, initiative, exhibits great patience, is decisive, an organizer, a team player, has a sense of humor, builds self-esteem, displays positive public relations, and interacts with members.
His Sports Leagues
Chief among the many Club activities are the athletic leagues: volleyball, soccer, and basketball. Members pay $65 per sport, and scholarships are readily available for 25% of the participants. Each league consumes eight weeks and includes skill evaluation for balanced teams and one practice and one game per week, with all players playing one-half or whole of every game. Basketball and soccer have separate boys and girls teams, while volleyball is co-educational. Top teams play for championships; each sport enjoying its own “March Madness.” Awards events draw up to 400 attendees.
Besides the sport leagues, there are several centers or activity areas:
In the Learning Center, members can catch up on their school homework and have tutoring sessions in all subjects. Studies include power hour, history memory, and math hunt; stack the states, and such learning games as iPod chess/checker, hangman, and sticker stories.
Games Room fun offers an array including foosball, musical chairs, carpet bowling, hula hoops, scooter races, speed ball, checkers, air hockey, Simon Says, been bag tossing, pool, ping pong, and other recreation.
The Technical Center offers preparation for various educational endeavors as well as college planning, typing, coding, and other computer skills.
Arts and Crafts include an introduction to all types of creativity, including cooking. Children draw watercolors, mold clay, fuse beads, make scarfs and lanyards, crochet, and collage.
In what is known as “the old gym,” children learn about such sports such as scatter ball, soccer, basketball, and kickball, among others.
The Teen Center is a busy place with a special lounge, TV, library, and room for social endeavors. The library and TV rooms are other learning venues.
All of these many pursuits are well “organized” and part of the total learning environment of gaining practical as well as mental skills
Input from Club Users
Amid the collective noise of fun and play at 4pm on a typical day, four young members were representative of the Club’s influence.
Elba, age 16, is this year’s “Youth of the Year.” Planning a college program in chemical engineering, during after school hours (since she was nine) she has treated the Club as a “home away from home.”
Oscar, nine, was in the Tech room, “learning stuff from the strategies web site.”
Gerson, also nine, was playing a scatter book computer game.
Ashley, eleven, loves the “fun and games” but mostly enjoys drawing, and arts and crafts. Her career plans include dance instruction.
Input from Club Directors
Reports are all praiseworthy. Board Director Mike Burke wrote, “Kent, for 32 years, has laid the amazing ground work for helping kids in our community for generations to come. He’s built a foundation that the whole community not only feels a part of, but is deeply engaged in. His legacy will live on for lifetimes.” Former Club Director President, San Clemente councilman and Mayor Joe Anderson, first meeting Mike when he came up the gangplank, said,”His hiring was a pivotal point. He turned the place around from the beginning – programs, facilities, staff and directors, and, mostly, providing positive directions.”
Director John Ezell wrote, “Kent’s 32 years with the San Clemente Boys and Girls Club have favorably touched the lives of thousands of children, including my own. We, as a community, are blessed to have had Kent for over three decades enabling former club members to see their own children also benefiting from his guidance and caring. He is an integral part of the San Clemente community. We’ll appropriately recognize him at the November auction.”
Need more be said?