Bringing ABACUS to life: BGC Hamilton kids now see a better future

ABACUS is a research-based initiative at HCF that helps kids to imagine and achieve a better future through high-school graduation and going to post-secondary. It focuses on the middle school years and addresses factors that affect students’ likelihood of continuing their education.
This summer, HCF Donor Services Advisor Celeste Licorish got the chance to attend a reception for Boys & Girls Club Hamilton celebrating the successes of students in their ABACUS-funded program. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.

How did this reception make ABACUS really come alive for you?

The energy was amazing. It’s one thing to hear about ABACUS here at HCF and read about what ABACUS is doing for kids in Hamilton – but to actually be in a space where the program has been operating was incredibly moving. Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton started off by thanking the Foundation for allowing this to happen. BGC is very committed to improving the lives of kids anyway so the alignment of ABACUS with what they’re trying to do is magical. But the really special stuff was when the kids got up and started to talk about their experiences with the program.

What kinds of things were the kids saying?

They talked about how, before the program, they used to act out and do things like toss over garbage cans, flip off the instructors, and were disruptive and unengaged. But the ABACUS program involved things like going to McMaster to learn about science, taking field trips, and patient and engaged co-ordinators attuned to what the kids would find interesting – this really made the difference. Some of these kids were now going into Grade 9, talking about how for the first time they actually care about science and are looking forward to doing better things. They’re also talking about how their instructors and coaches are more like brothers and sisters, and friends, not people they have to reel against.
One young girl stood up and she said that if this had been two years ago, there’s no way she’d even be standing in front of a group to talk about anything! So the confidence that she now had in herself was huge compared to when she started.

To think about HCF being a part of the transition in these kids’ lives at a very fragile and vulnerable time is so rewarding. The kids immediately acknowledged that they had other influences that were not positive and that they could have easily gone in that direction. But because they had this program and people that were invested in them, they were now seeing themselves and their futures in new and more positive ways.

What was your main takeaway from the event?

I sat there at the beginning of this event, thinking it would be a nice celebration for ABACUS. But by the end what it did was bring the whole thing to life in a way that blew me away and it showed me how we are actually changing kids’ lives. It doesn’t take inordinate amounts of time for kids to get from one place to another. Most importantly, it takes an environment that is supportive and a belief in the potential of these kids. And of course, it’s our amazing donors that make it all possible in the first place. It’s wonderful to see that everybody involved in ABACUS is invested so deeply.