When Boston Public Schools shifted to a remote learning model during the 2020-2021 school year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s (BGCB) Condon Club, which operates out of James Condon Elementary School in South Boston, was forced to temporarily cease operations. This past fall, with newly appointed Director Ashley Quan at the helm, Condon Club’s reopening story has been one of reinvention and patience, with the Club’s efforts already making a lasting impact on the youth of South Boston.
Quan was promoted into the Club’s Director role from her previous position as Wagner Family Art Director at Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club in Dorchester. She says the three words she would use to describe the Club’s reopening process are: challenging, exciting, and opportunity.
She and her growing team have embraced the unique chance to re-establish Condon Club from the ground up, bringing their diverse backgrounds into the task of supporting a community that has experienced tremendous levels of stress in the face of an ongoing pandemic.
Carving Out a Space in a Community Changed by Pandemic
“In many ways, the community Condon Club is serving today looks very different than the community it was serving before the pandemic,” explained Quan. “In order to keep up with the needs of the children and families we serve, we must show up every day with open-mindedness, and a focus on getting to know each of our members and families, and then meeting them wherever they are in their lives in this moment.”
Learning loss, food insecurity, and an increased demand for child care are among the many challenges that communities across Boston are facing as a result of the pandemic.
“Our Club is playing so many different roles in this community today,” she continued. “We are role models, we are homework tutors, we are wellness and healthy lifestyle instructors, and during the holidays this year, we were gift givers, supporting our families in the process of creating memorable holiday traditions for their young ones.”
While the challenges faced in its community have been constantly changing, Quan and her staff have adapted and implemented fun and creatives ideas that members have responded to with enthusiasm.
Expressive Art Workshops and an Emphasis on Group Activities
Quan has brought a series of fresh ideas into Condon Club’s program curriculum, tapping into her background as an artist and a social worker. Expressive Art Workshops are one example, as members of all ages have jumped at the opportunity to express their feelings through the creation of art.
“As a kid, it’s difficult to use words to convey emotions, especially negative ones,” explained Quan. “And when kids don’t have the words to share their negative feelings, they will often resort to violence.”
Condon Clubs’s Expressive Art Workshops are positioned to serve as an alternate outlet for emotional expression. They provide members with the opportunity to use their hands to put their feelings onto paper so they don’t have to struggle with words, and most importantly, don’t feel compelled to resort to violence.
“One young member who has a habit of clenching his fists when he is frustrated has already shared with me that he likes these workshops because they, in his own words, ‘prevent (him) from hurting (himself) with anger.’ Our members are craving healthy outlets like this and I’m grateful for the opportunity to provide one.”
“You can tell the kids need these, especially with all of the complexity that the pandemic has brought to their lives,” Quan continued. “One young member who has a habit of clenching his fists when he is frustrated has already shared with me that he likes these workshops because they, in his own words, ‘prevent (him) from hurting (himself) with anger.’ Our members are craving healthy outlets like this and I’m grateful for the opportunity to provide one.”
Quan is also leveraging her background as a group activity leader at Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club.
“Organizing fun and safe events across all age groups on a regular basis has been a strategic choice we’ve made because it is an efficient way to address a variety of needs,” explained Quan. “After a pandemic spent largely in isolation with minimal in-person contact, members are ready to be together. They are ready to have fun with each other and feed off of each other’s positive energy.”
A Halloween festival, international cooking class over Zoom with high school students in Tokyo, and a Pokémon Party are among the group events Quan and her staff have organized so far. At the same time, holding group events has also been a way for Quan to get more done with a smaller team as she navigates a historically challenging hiring market and continues to assemble her dream team.
“I’m not just looking to hire just anyone to fill our open positions,” continued Quan. “I’m looking for the right candidates who can be a true asset to our team and to the community of South Boston. Finding candidates of this caliber can take time, but I’m patient and staying focused on doing this the right way.”
If you know anyone who can make an impact at Condon Club, please share our open positions.
A Steadfast Focus on BGCB’s 130-year-old Mission
No matter how much Condon Club adapts and reinvents itself to the needs of South Boston, it remains guided by the same mission that has guided Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston for well over a century: helping young people build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders.
Looking for ways to support BGCB’s work? Make a gift today.