Opinion

PEAK will impact every child served

In 2004, the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County first sat down with the Mercer Island School District to explore a partnership, spurred by the needs of the youth in the Mercer Island community. This group of youth advocates set out to improve facilities for the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club, expand teen programming and enhance the educational and recreational opportunities of Mercer Island youth. Today, thanks to the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club project, named “PEAK,” the Island is closer than ever to seeing these goals accomplished. The PEAK (Positive Place for Kids & Teens, Enrichment & Education, Activities & Athletics, Kinship & Community) facility will impact the lives of every child served, not just during school hours, but during critical after-school hours when youth are statistically most likely to explore high-risk behaviors.

The Mercer Island branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County has been an integral part of the Mercer Island community since 1968. Annually, it serves 75 percent of youth on the Island and provides a safe and nurturing environment for children and teens alike. Like all Boys & Girls Clubs, it offers programming that supports the five core areas of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ mission: education and career development; character and leadership; health and life skills; sports, fitness and recreation; and the arts. This is no small feat considering it has accomplished all this while using a facility that is now 91 years old and severely inefficient. Soon, operating out of this decrepit building will be a thing of the past.

Boys & Girls Clubs pride themselves on being inclusive and will accommodate every child or teen that walks through their doors seeking to belong. Far from a “private club,” this facility will be an asset to many groups in our community: children, teens, educators, sports leagues, parents and many others.

The new facility on the Mercer Island High School campus will include a brand new Boys & Girls Club with a separate space for an EX3 Teen Center, a new field house with three multiple-use gyms, child-care programming and space for Mercer Island High School activities. In addition to these new facilities, the gym at the former Boys & Girls Club West Mercer site will be retained and upgraded with new ball fields, funded by a generous Mercer Island community member. Great progress has been made in planning, permitting and raising funds for this project.

City leaders, members of the Mercer Island School Board and Mercer Island residents have provided oversight and input for this project every step of the way. They have covered all the bases for the children of this community, reserving plenty of school district land to build additional schools in the future should the need arise. This oversight will continue as the project moves through an extensive approval process.

Clearly, the opportunity before us is a great one. It’s not every day that a community has the chance to impact youth in such an innovative way. The PEAK project is the result of an entire community joining together to advocate for its youth. It will stand as a testament to Mercer Island’s commitment to children, teens and integrated education.

To learn more please visit www.mipositiveplace.org.

Blair Rasmussen is the Executive Director, Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club.

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