CANYON COUNTRY – It’s a venue for junior high P.E. classes, after-school basketball games and city athletics leagues. Located on the campus of Sierra Vista Junior High, the Boys & Girls Club facility has become a model of shared uses and, more importantly, a place for kids that’s open during the day, after school and on the weekends. On a visit to Sierra Vista earlier this year, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer III toured the clubhouse when school was in session. Impressed by the collaboration of entities that built the clubhouse, Brewer said last week he wanted to replicate the concept in Los Angeles to promote greater safety on campuses. Brewer also said he was struck by the spirit of the partnership. “It has a huge computer lab in it, a huge gym, all kinds of activities, college-going help, college counseling, all of this going on inside of that middle school,” he said. “It’s extremely important that we partner and collaborate with the community in bringing in those resources.” “It’s a great partnership,” said Tom Dierckman, a semi-retired Valencia development company executive who spearheaded the fundraising drive to build the $6.2 million, 27,000-square-foot center that opened in 2004. “The school district has a facility they wouldn’t otherwise have, the Boys & Girls Club has programs they wouldn’t have and the city of Santa Clarita has a gym for park leagues that it wouldn’t have had. “It’s not just used nine months of the year or six hours a day.” The club, the Hart Union High School District and the city of Santa Clarita pooled their money for the clubhouse, which also features classrooms, a computer lab and a teen center. The local Boys & Girls Club Foundation also collected significant chunks of state and federal funding as well as private contributions. “At our first meeting on this project we agreed that these are our kids – not your kids during the day and my kids after school. These are our kids and our community,” said Jim Ventress, chief professional officer of the Santa Clarita Valley Boys & Girls Club. “And in this community if it’s about the kids and it’s the right thing to do, somehow this community gets it done.” The Sierra Vista site is the largest of three Boys & Girls Club facilities in the Santa Clarita Valley, with 2,000 of the local chapter’s 3,500 total members. In the four years since the Sierra Vista facility replaced a small center on the edge of campus, Ventress has received calls from school districts in Northern California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Connecticut. “They all wanted to know, ‘How did you do it?”‘ Ventress said. “I just said, ‘Common sense.”‘ The community itself donated $1 million, and it’s paid off, giving kids supervision and plenty to do. For many, the option is to stay alone till their parents come home from work – and at that pivotal junior-high age, that can mean problems. An average of 240 kids, ages 7-17, visit the club daily, said branch manager John Kim. Among the employees is 2006 Youth of the Year Deandre James, who came to the club about five years ago after his mother died and he came to live with an aunt. “He wasn’t doing well in school, he had some problems adjusting,” Kim said. “But he raised his grades and became one of our model leaders.” James won a scholarship to attend College of the Canyons and continues to work at the club. The Sierra Vista branch is the local club’s third – and most complex – shared-use project. It operates a clubhouse in the county’s Val Verde Park near Castaic and has a larger center in the city’s Newhall Park. When the latter project was proposed in the mid-80s, opposition was strong from nearby residents who feared problem kids would be gathering after school in the park. Santa Clarita, with a population now pushing 200,000, was much smaller then and youth crime rare. With growth, things have changed and Ventress said the club has helped keep a lot of borderline kids out of trouble and touted the Newhall project as forward-thinking. A larger center in the Castaic area is probably the next big move, but that’s years away, Dierckman said. The club, which raised $400,000 last week at its annual auction, wants to keep a handle on operating costs before beginning a new campaign. The cushion is it owes nothing on its properties, thanks to the shared-use agreements. Dierckman said of the Sierra Vista club, “This is the poster child for the way things should be done.” Staff writer Naush Boghossian contributed to this story. firstname.lastname@example.org (661) 257-5251 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!