ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) As a child, this week’s Jefferson Award winner needed a consistent male role model in his life. After Jeff Miller’s parents divorced in the 1960’s, his father relocated to a new city. Sensing her son needed some additional guidance, Miller’s mother gave him a choice: He had to sign up for little league or the Boy’s Club, as it was called back then. Little did Miller know, his decision to join the Club would change not only his life but the lives of countless other children.
Twenty years later, Miller was given the chance to work for the now newly merged and christened Boys and Girls Club. The former assistant baseball coach has since made a 30 year career with different club chapters. But perhaps his most impressive work has been as CEO of the Club’s Alameda chapter.
Since taking over the chapter in 2012, Miller has raised its annual operating budget to more than one million dollars. The chapter now serves 4000 kids every year, twice as many as it did five years ago. In addition to these accomplishments, Miller has also developed a strategic plan to be put into place by 2019 that would enable the chapter to serve even more children. Miller admits it is a big goal but he also says he personally has seen the difference the Club makes because the more kids who attend, the more likely they are to graduate high school.
“I’ve seen that the kids that have attended the Boys & Girls Clubs — it’s closer to 90%,” said Miller. “And out of that a lot of those kids follow up and go to college.”
In addition to its after school programs and summer activities like field trips to museums, the Club also has year-round programs designed to educate kids about everything from gardening and healthy eating to coding and app development. Even mentorship programs are offered. One of Miller’s big goals is to keep teenagers engaged in Club activities, so teens are offered free membership to the Club. But Miller says his staff is still focused on the younger kids, and their futures.
He is especially proud of how the Club has been able to utilize its proximity to Silicon Valley, by inviting members of the tech community to come by and teach the kids.
“We have kids that are 8, 9, and 10 years old doing coding here at the Boys & Girls Club,” said Miller. “They’re creating apps for phones.”
But the kids are also encouraged and inspired to dream big and craft their own futures. After taking cooking classes and helping in the club’s garden, 12-year-old Zaniyah is planning for a career in the culinary arts.
“When I grow up I really want to have a bakery,” said Zaniyah. “Or a restaurant.”
For high school senior Janylah, college and law school are in her future plans. Janylah has been coming to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club since she was 6 years old, developing a close circle of friends and mentors that have been a source of encouragement.
“They’ve allowed me to remind myself like, ‘I got this,” said Janylah. “I am going to be something and I am going to go somewhere.”
Miller says he plans to continue his service to the Boys and Girls Club long after he retires. And he is quick to point out that no child is ever turned away for lack of funds. The Club offers financial assistance to all kids who would like a membership but who cannot afford to pay for one.
So for helping educate, inspire, and empower children through the resources of the Boys and Girls Club, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jeff Miller.