B&G P Chelsea Johnson, center left, helps Chloe Dowling, center right, with her homework at the Boys & Girls Club on Olive St. in Ventura.

It's all about community

The Boys & Girls Club of Ventura transitions forward as 25-year veteran and CEO Diane Koranda steps down

By Carla Iacovetti 03/28/2013

 

“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
– Henrik Ibsen

The Boys & Girls Club of Ventura is in transition as its 25-year veteran and CEO Diane Koranda announces her retirement. The graduate of the School of Executive Leadership from the University of Michigan and entrepreneur did not really know what she was stepping into when she was recruited to join the Boys & Girls Club 25 years ago.

 
During the early years, Koranda served as a member of the Ventura club’s board of directors.  Things began to change for her, however, once she met the kids and observed firsthand many of the challenges they faced. She saw this club as a positive way for the community to come together and support children and families. With her vibrant leadership and fervor to help, it was no surprise when the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura hired her as director of development. For Koranda, it was not just about the job — it was about making a difference. She was excited to be a part of something good. “I decided to stop the for-profit business to work for a nonprofit business,” said Koranda.


After two and a half years in Ventura, Koranda accepted the position of executive director at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Paula (her home town), and remained there for five years.  “My experience in Santa Paula was a great learning place,” said Koranda.

 
The enthusiastic Koranda was destined to be an influential part of the Ventura Club because, in 2001, she was hired as the CEO and has served in that capacity for the last 11 and a half years.  She has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the impressive Poinsettia Award for Non-Profit Organizations from the Ventura Chamber of Commerce because of the influence the Boys & Girls Club has had on the community.

 


Instructor Jesus Ornelas, right, assists students Mauricio Chacon, center, and Alexander Pineda, left, with an activity to reinforce their lesson on the American Gold Rush.


The Boys & Girls Club of America has been around for more than 150 years, and began in Hartford, Conn. with three women: Mary Goodwin, Alice Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersley. “Originally, the organization was only for boys, and it was called The Good Will Club,” said Koranda. In the belief that boys should have positive alternatives to roaming the streets, and focusing on character development, the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura has taken this idea and expanded to what it is today, a terrific program for kids that provides a good climate for healthy personal development.


The Boys & Girls Club of Ventura serves the economic interests of the county, being a positive place for kids. While the club continues to promote character development and personal growth, “It has been in transition mode for some time,” said Koranda.


Originally, it was a drop-in program where kids could show up whenever they wanted to, and choose what activities they would become involved with that day. Over the last decade, however, the club has been making a conscientious effort to add more academics. 

 
“We’ve now gotten away from the drop-in program, and emphasize academics — with the intent of creating an atmosphere that inspires kids to learn. We are a safe place for kids to be after school.  With the current financial struggles that so many families are facing today, it’s a great comfort to the parents and fun for the kids,” said Koranda.


The club in Ventura began in 1938, and was originally called the Police Boys Club. For nearly 30 years, the club worked hard to keep boys off the streets. In 1962, the club joined the chartered Boys Club of America, and in 1967 the Ventura Girls Club was incorporated by the State of California. In 1980, the two clubs merged together forming the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura, and it has been impacting the lives of kids in this community ever since.


While the Boys & Girls Club has a solid reputation, there is no doubt that the Ventura Club has progressed largely because of Koranda’s vision and direction — the club’s focus has shifted to a more academically driven program. Koranda believes that when a child learns the importance of good citizenship and the benefit of personal growth and academic success, the community reaps the rewards. 

 
In 2010, Dr. Jamshid Damooei, professor of economics at Cal Lutheran University conducted a survey for the Boys and Girls Club in Ventura. The results were impressive:  97 percent rate of high school graduation, 0 percent teen pregnancy rate, 83 percent improvement in family communication, 92 percent improved self-confidence, and 88 percent of the parents said that they were able to stay employed because of the after-school program.


“Every child deserves the chance to be a part of this kind of club; yet there are waiting lists that prevent this from happening. Currently, there are approximately 65 children on our waiting list to get it, and we cannot take in more children without hiring more staff to accommodate them,” said Koranda. Along with the staff, additional equipment, supplies and food are needed, and no one wants to turn any child away.  “It’s a real catch-22, because you have to learn to stretch the dollars while trying to accommodate more kids, and there’s a growing need for these kinds of services here in Ventura County,” said Koranda.


“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Walt Disney Company, Mulan


With a 97 percent high school graduation rate, it is easy to understand why the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura has so many success stories. Stewart came to the club when he was 7 years old. He was clinically depressed, withdrawn, antisocial, and had attempted suicide.


“When he first came to the club, he literally hid under the pool table,” said Koranda.


John Brant, one of the board members, mentored him in the club’s juggling program.  Stewart never did well in school, but he had a lot of potential.  Brant and the staff worked with him for years, and Stewart not only graduated from Ventura’s Foothill Technology High School, where he created a science program for club kids, he was admitted into Loyola University New Orleans with a scholarship. He juggles for a living and was hired to entertain at the Super Bowl this year.

 


Students celebrate victory and protest defeat during a throwing skills game in the gymnasium at the Boys & Girls Club on Olive St. in Ventura. Left to right, Andrea Cordero, Juandiego Vasquez, Brian Catalan, and William Mendez.

 
A 16-year-old boy and his family moved to Ventura from Santa Paula after a close family friend was stabbed. On the way home from the hospital, the family discovered there had been a drive-by shooting at their home. Unfortunately, the move to Ventura did not stop this young man from getting into trouble with the law. He came to the Boys and Girls Club to fulfill his community service hours.


“The staff worked closely with him, and they played a huge part in influencing him for the good. After he had completed his community hours, he continued with the club because he realized that he had friends — friends that were all having a good time, and no one was getting into trouble,” said Koranda. Now, two and a half years later, he is still involved with the club and he is the president of the Boys & Girls Club Team Leadership Club. He plays high-school football, maintains a decent grade-point average and has plans to attend college.


Crystal came to the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura in grade school. Her siblings were involved with gangs and drug abuse. She ended up becoming a junior volunteer and a Youth of the Year winner. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school and from college. Today, Crystal frequently speaks on behalf of the club in the community.


“For us to keep our doors open, we rely on our community. It’s a big organization and it takes a lot of money to run. Our budget is $1.5 million annually, and we need to raise that much and more so we can serve more kids in our community effectively,” said Koranda. It is interesting to note that more than 80 percent of charitable dollars come from individual donations.


“Membership donation is $50 per year. We have sliding scale fees for the morning program, which is similar to a summer camp. It’s no wonder there’s waiting list!  Any child is welcome to join; we make no discrimination,” said Koranda.


A recent study by California Lutheran University revealed that for every $1 spent by the club, more than $16 of additional revenue is generated in the community — a 1,600 percent return on investment.


A key club goal is to positively impact the lives of members with emphasis on three essential youth outcomes:
·         Academic success
·         Good character and citizenship
·         Healthy lifestyles


Some of the club programs include Project Learn, Power Hour, Keystone and Torch Clubs, Passport to Manhood, Youth of the Year, Money Matters, Career Launch, Date SMART, SMART Girls, Triple Play, Club Tech, art and gardening programs and also various sports, fitness and recreation programs.


The Boys & Girls Club of Ventura loves volunteers. After passing a background check, there are a variety of arenas where people can get involved.  The club needs tutors, mentors, coaches, or volunteers to work on fund-raising.  “We put on four fund-raising events during the year and welcome any volunteer help.  It helps to take a load off of the staff,” said Koranda.  Just one or two hours each week can make a difference in the life of a young person.  The greater Ventura Boys & Girls Club has five separate locations and an administrative office, and two of the Ventura facilities are 14,000 square feet each.  All of the locations are in need of volunteer assistance.  A contribution of your time can make a world of difference in the life of a child.

 
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, and there are a number of celebrations and special events planned. Many of today’s leading businesspeople, professionals and community leaders are alumni: Mel Sheeler, founder and CEO of Sheeler Moving and Storage; Bob Lynn, owner of Lynn’s Jewelry; Tareq Hishmeh, Esq., at Hathaway, Perrett, Webster Law Firm, to name a few.


Jim Duran, president of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Project Understanding recently praised Diane Koranda’s leadership. “Her vision to empower and develop the whole child has changed the club’s focus and has changed the lives of those who attend the club. … Diane’s efforts throughout the years have played a major role in academic success of each student. … Diane has done an excellent job and will be missed, but her legacy will live on.”


The Boys & Girls Club is not just any ordinary organization. It is a place where children and youth can feel safe, get inspired and have fun with friends, while excelling in academics, and experience personal growth. Here in Ventura, the Boys & Girls Club is changing lives, one child at a time.

 


All about the kids
Former Disney Channel exec takes lead as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura

 

 

by Carla Iacovetti
carla.iacovetti@gmail.com

For Patrick Davidson, it has always been about kids. The former senior vice president of the Disney Channel and now the new chief executive officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura is very excited to be a part of such a wonderful club.


Davidson comes to the club with wide-ranging leadership experience. He produced independent programs for ABC, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Discovery Network, History Channel, Lifetime and National Geographic, to name a few. In addition, he was the creator of Disney’s American Teacher Awards and the Presidential Inaugural Celebration for Children. He is also the winner of the Cable Ace Award for outstanding children’s specials, and produced the award-winning documentary film, The World We Want, a film celebrating the remarkable stories of 150 students from all around the world who shared their inspirational stories, experiences and dreams, with the hope of creating a better world. 


Along with his highly respected work as a television executive, Davidson spent more than 10 years counseling at-risk children, teens and troubled families in various community centers. He co-founded the juvenile justice diversion program in 1969, now known as the National Youth Project Using MiniBikes (NYPUM), an organization that provides opportunities for compromised youth while building self-esteem, social respectability and good character. 


Davidson is doing what he loves to do — being involved with the advancement and betterment of kids. “Throughout my entire life, it’s been all about kids. I have a lot of respect for kids. It’s a complicated world we live in. There are a lot of diversions, and the Boys & Girls Club helps kids to focus on things that are really important in their lives. The children in our clubs are like family; for some kids, we become a second family, and that’s an amazing honor,” said Davidson.


“We have a great staff,” Davidson said. A big part of his job is to support the staff and expand club resources. He believes part of the reason this club has such a dedicated staff is because there is tremendous reward in changing people’s lives, that being on the observing end of inspiration and transformation is the best kind of payment.


Following in Diane Koranda’s footsteps will be no easy task, but Davidson very much shares her vision for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura and is confident about the program. “Diane has done a masterful job with this organization,” said Davidson. Like Koranda, Davidson wants to see kids excel at whatever they are interested in, while working on the whole child.


Marketing and publicity are part of the specified skill-set that Davidson brings to this club. 


“Anyone that knows me knows that I believe in the power of storytelling, and we have a fabulous story to tell,” he said. “One of the many things I’ve learned about Ventura County is that there is tremendous pride here, and this club is a reflection of our community.  My goal is to get the word out and to get more people involved.”


“We are dedicated to empowering kids to find their passion and be the best person that they can be. I want them to have the most fulfilling and rewarding life — on their terms.  It starts with them and ends with them. If we can help them realize their goals and dreams, then we’ve done our job well,” Davidson said. 

 

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