SIX YOUNG WOMEN TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL – AND THE FRIENDSHIP CLUB
Bright Futures for Youth program helps teens and young women overcome numerous challenges, including distance learning and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, and ensures they receive much-needed services
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – Distance learning, isolation from friends and much uncertainty have challenged youth during the past 15 months.
But six young women embraced the challenge and focused on their goals. Now, those young women will graduate from high school – and The Friendship Club, a program where they have learned many life skills, made lifelong friends and been prepared for the next step, whether it’s college, trade school or full-time work. The Friendship Club, a 26-year-old organization, merged with NEO to become Bright Futures for Youth in summer 2020.
“Being a teenager is very difficult during the best of times, from the emotional and physical changes to the pressure from peers and school,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth and co-founder of The Friendship Club. “Add the challenges of Covid – from the frustrations of online learning to the loss of in-person, quality time with friends – and it’s been a very tough period for youth. But these young women are excellent examples of what can be achieved with hard work and persistence. They are truly resilient and remarkable.”
Some of the soon-to-be graduates will share their accomplishments and experiences – and how The Friendship Club helped them – during a Grad Night celebration at 6 p.m. May 12 on KNCO-AM (830) and STAR-FM (94.1). The on-air program replaces the annual Graduation and Scholarship Dinner, a major fundraiser for The Friendship Club that has been canceled due to the pandemic the past two years.
“Covid threw us a curve when it started, but we soon developed new ways to connect with and help our students while still following health and safety guidelines,” Singer said.
The Friendship Club adapted quickly to establish online life-skills classes, hosted smaller in-person groups and meetings, and expanded much-needed services, including access to health care and counseling and preparing more healthy meals and take-home food baskets for the girls and their families.
“Some of the girls’ needs changed, and we were quick to find new ways to help,” Singer said. “The Friendship Club is so much more than an after-school program, we’re also a helping hand, an advocate, a support system.”
The Friendship Club also assists girls with college applications and financial assistance – and offers its own scholarships for graduates enrolled in college or vocational training. The scholarships are possible thanks in part to a generous investment by David and Barba Nurse to the organization’s endowment in memory of their mothers and to encourage others to contribute to honor important women in their lives.
“We’re deeply invested in the future of our young women and girls – some who have been with the organization for several years – and we support them in so many ways,” said Machen MacDonald, President of the Bright Futures for Youth Board. “Their success is our success.”
The Friendship Club has helped empower and educate about 1,000 girls and young women since 1995, including about 100 during the current school year. The Friendship Club helps sixth-through 12th-grade girls and young women in western Nevada County. Much has changed since Mary Collier founded the organization in 1995, but the goal of connecting girls with each other, mentors and role models, and putting them on a path to success, remains the same today.
“The six young women graduating are ready for the future and whatever lies ahead, and they know firsthand the importance of leadership, giving back to the community and helping others,” Singer said. “Those qualities have never been more important than today. We are so proud of these graduates and what they have accomplished, especially given the extraordinary challenges, and are so happy that we had a role in such an important period of their lives.”
The 2021 Friendship Club graduating class are:
- Amanda: As a volunteer, Amanda received a certificate of appreciation from the American Legion. She plans to attend Sierra College and become a math teacher.
- Hallie: Hallie was awarded Best in Category for lyrical dancing in the Starbound dance competition. Hallie also completed a nursing internship at YubaDocs while attending Bitney Prep. She plans to go to Sierra College and transfer to University of California, Davis to pursue a degree in the medical field.
- Kalena: Her interests include art, drawing, cooking, and aerial skills and hoops, a form of Cirque du Soleil. She also has volunteered at local veteran dinners. Kalena plans to pursue a degree in culinary arts or cosmetology, or attend the University of California, Davis. After earning her degree, she plans to travel, sell her art and build her own business.
- Morgan: She was part of the Leadership Council and volunteered for the elderly and veterans in our community. Morgan also has a passion for animals and plans to attend a professional dog training academy and Animal Behavior College to become a dog trainer.
- Syreena: A Friendship Club Peer Helper, Syreena’s experience became the focus of her senior project at Nevada Union High School. Her hobbies include acting and music, and she has been in many musical theatre performances at Nevada Union. She is also passionate about psychology and mental health. Syreena plans to get her degree at Santa Monica College.
(Amanda was not available for the photo. The sixth girl preferred not to share her name or any personal details.)