Posted on February 20, 2019
By Michael Shine
At the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado’s Evening with the Governor event Monday night, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said there’s a number of things that the country’s youth need.
He included the need for youth to have places to go after school to avoid drug use, challenges in life, things that inspire them, protection and support, and to be equipped for life, all of which he said Boys and Girls Clubs around the country help with.
Hutchinson said he attended an organization similar to the Boys and Girls Club in Springdale, after his family moved there.
“It was important that in Springdale, in a different community, we had somewhere like a Boys and Girls Club that we could go to after school,” Hutchinson said. “I was there and I saw the value that I continued my learning and I kept out of trouble.”
When he became a parent of four in Fort Smith, he became a soccer coach at a Boys and Girls Club there. He said this helped him realize how important the after school programs and mentorships are as well as all the things that Boys and Girls Clubs can offer youth.
As governor, Hutchinson said he went to a town hall meeting with parents and law enforcement. He said they started talking about the challenges that came with the opioid epidemic.
“It surprised me,” he said. “I thought well Waldron is a community that might have some methamphetamine or marijuana problems. But it was opioids. I said ‘How is this a problem?’ They explained to me that the young people, when they get out of school, their parents are working and they go to their home and they go house to house. They go walking as they said. That’s when they get into trouble, that’s when they get into medicine cabinets, that’s when they get into things they shouldn’t get into.”
He said the community in Waldron was working on establishing a Boys and Girls Club to provide activities for young people to do after school to help keep them out of trouble.
“Your programs support the character, academic success and healthy lifestyles,” he said. “I applaud all that you do.”
When it comes to what young people need, Hutchinson said they need to be challenged in life, an understanding that they can do more.
“Some people are challenged academically and they stretch themselves and they need to be,” he said. “Others challenge themselves also in the field of athletics, testing their own body and their endurance and their character.”
He also said young people need to be inspired. This, he said, is part of the reason behind the reading initiative he’s started since becoming governor, called RISE. It has been implemented in over 300 schools across the state and emphasises that a student in third grade needs to be reading at grade level so they can learn science and history better as they continue through their education.
“I have been blessed as governor to be able to travel to Cuba, China, Europe, Canada promoting the state of Arkansas,” he said. “But the first time I went to those places was whenever I was in the fifth grade when I was reading books about the globe, about the world. I traveled to these places in my mind. That’s the inspiration that we need for you young people. To be inspired about the world, about the life that they can live, about heroes in our society and what they can do.”
Hutchinson also said youth need protection and support. He said that’s why his wife is involved in youth advocacy centers so that those suffering from abuse or neglect in their homes or in their lives have a secure place to go.
Finally, he said it is important for youth to be equipped for life.
“That’s what education is about,” Hutchinson said. “You’re equipped for life from your parents and your home structure, but it’s also the schools and our education system. That’s why whenever I saw the future of computer science in our society, the ability to write code and computer programs and software, I recognized that we should have that in every high school in Arkansas.”
The computer science initiative is another one that Hutchinson has pushed since becoming governor. It is now a requirement for high schools to offer computer science courses across the state, implementing it in earlier grade levels as well. There is now over 8,000 students across the state taking a computer science course, which means Arkansas is now leading in the area around the country.
Along with the role of schools and parents in doing these things for youth, Hutchinson said the Boys and Girls Club also play a role in ensuring the youth have access to these things.
“Yes, they need to be challenged, they need to be inspired, protected and supported, and they need to be equipped for life,” he said. “Guess what? The Boys and Girls Clubs does all of that for our young people. Certainly, they are supplementary to what the schools are doing and parents are doing, but they do those thing that are critical for our young people.”
Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.