The Boys and Girls Club of Glacier Country recently received a more than $1 million federal grant to start programs for junior high and high school students in Columbia Falls.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant has an estimated award of $228,294 annually for the next five years, director Cindy Hooker said last week. The federal grant is administered through the Office of Public Instruction.

The Boys and Girls Club has served the youth of Columbia Falls for decades, but only through the elementary grades. This will be the first time the club has served older youths.

Hooker said the initial goal is to serve about 60 youths in junior high and high school. The two age groups will not be combined.

The club is still working on raising funds for a new center north of Ruder Elementary School.

“High school principal Scott Gaiser has been very gracious in allowing us to provide after school programming in the library until our new facility, the HUB, is completed,” Hooker noted. “As there is not a space at the middle school that can be used consistently for after school programming, due to other various activities, we are currently searching for a location to serve the middle school students, until the HUB is completed. We will be hiring a teen director for each site and two program staff for each site. The grant will allow us to provide our staff with a health care benefit.”

Hooker said the club provides programming in five core program areas: character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports, fitness and recreation.

“We expect to see our members graduate from high school on time and with a plan for their future, be engaged and involved in the community and have strong character, and to adopt a healthy lifestyle and make a lifelong commitment to making healthy decisions,” Hooker said.

The grant will provide a percentage of payroll for 13 people of which six will be new positions for the middle school and high school program. It will also provide funding for various training opportunities for all staff and specific equipment for the new programs, the club notes.

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