Boys and Girls Club

When Kaitlyn Collins graduated from college, she wanted to find a way to give back to her hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. She jumped on an opportunity to apply for a Serve Louisiana position at the Boys and Girls Club, and became the Family Support & Engagement Coordinator in September 2021.

“I didn't expect my service year to be as life changing as it has been,” she said.

Many people know the Boys and Girls Clubs for their ubiquitous afterschool and summer programs across the country. Their centers and staff provide a caring place for young people when schools are closed. Under Collins’ leadership, the “family engagement” programs invited family members into the picture, whether at the Club or at home.

Throughout her service, Collins identified the needs of Club families and compiled resources to help them stay engaged in their children’s lives, provide care and support, deepen their relationships, and create more opportunities for young people to talk about all they are dealing with.

For example, Collins offered families a “Cookies and Conversations” kit, which included cookie dough and conversation starters. “Activities like that give the opportunity for kids to share what they’re learning in the club and strengthen the family bonds,” she said. “Ultimately, kids who feel supported will be healthier individuals overall.”

Beyond supporting family conversations, Collins also assessed the needs of club families and compiled resources that could help families meet their material and psychological needs. She and the other staff would connect Club families to resources like academic support, crisis response, grief counseling, and upcoming community events. “There may be resources in sight, but they’re not easily accessible. So it’s helpful to have someone from B&G clubs present them in an accessible way,” she said.

“Service is a great opportunity to learn and be the boots on the ground… Be intentional about your service experience, be open to learning new things, and maximize your service year.” — Kaitlyn Collins

The role allowed Collins to work with all of the organization’s departments and staff across seven clubs. “I was able to get a better understanding of the organization as a whole and nonprofits generally.”

Once she completed her service year, she applied to continue at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana as a full-time Recruitment and Engagement Manager. She now manages the staff and volunteer engagement work of all clubs across 6 parishes. She says she wouldn’t be where she is without her service experience, especially the support from Serve Louisiana staff, Lisa and Maggie. “Professional development is really important in that transition post college graduation,” she said.

Part of Collins’ role now is to support new AmeriCorps members with BGC and ensure they have a rewarding experience. She likes helping different people learn about themselves and their communities, figure out what really matters to them, and identify steps toward their goals.

An ambassador for service, Collins recommends AmeriCorps to everyone. She shares her insights to anyone considering applying to join: “Service is a great opportunity to learn and be the boots on the ground in your community. It will give you insight into what challenges the community is facing and what solutions can be created and implemented. You’ll get things done to help the community address its immediate needs, and gain clarity around your next steps both personally and professionally.” Collins also tells all AmeriCorps members currently serving to “be intentional about your service experience, be open to learning new things, and maximize your service year.”

Moving forward, Collins sees herself continuing to run programs that support the learning and development of individuals and teams. “I believe everyone has something that is needed in their communities,” she said. “If someone can identify that early on, then a lot of the dreams and hopes we have for our communities will start to come to fruition.”

By: David Ferris