Boys & Girls Club Alumni Spotlight: Derek Bjornstad - Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota

Boys & Girls Club Alumni Spotlight: Derek Bjornstad

I began attending Boys & Girls Club’s Madison KIDSTOP in first grade. KIDSTOP provided me with great mentorship and role models.  Some of my greatest takeaways include teamwork, lifelong friendships, and social skills that were gained through play with many different students.  I attended KIDSTOP until sixth grade, and then I became a Junior Staff. I remember being so proud to help staff members and wanting to be like them when I grew up.  Eventually, after graduating high school, I became a staff member myself! I worked at Madison KIDSTOP for three summers, and then I became an assistant manager at Mississippi Heights for a summer.  The skills that I gained as a staff member lead me to my career as a teacher.  As a freshman in college, I worried about what career I would pursue as an adult.  I was fortunate enough to be hired by KIDSTOP, and after one summer of work, I knew that I wanted to be an educator.  KIDSTOP allowed me to discover my passion for working with kids and gave me the opportunity to plan and lead activities – some of which I still use in the classroom today.

There are several KIDSTOP staff members who had a huge impact on my life and some who I am still connected to today!  Paige, Pete, and Andy, were all staff members at Madison while I attended.  One of my favorite memories was when they created a football league and assigned any interested kids to “real” NFL teams.  I was placed on the Buccaneers team, and we played several regular season games, and then had a postseason.  Being the competitive person I am, I absolutely loved running into the cafeteria each day to see who my team was matched up against that week.  The best part about it was that, despite my competitiveness, I don’t remember how well my team did, but rather the fun I had playing each day with my friends.

Additionally, staff created clubs centering around their own interests.  I remember being part of a “Friends (TV show) Club” and a sports card collecting club.  Some of the staff members took us on a field trip to The Dugout, which was a card-collecting store in St. Cloud.  They even got us each a mystery bag full of sports cards.  These staff truly about me and wanted me to be successful in life.  I will forever be indebted to them.

I am currently a 5th grade teacher at Becker Intermediate School.  I am in my 9th year of teaching, and I love my job!  I still use many of the skills I gained as both a student and staff member at KIDSTOP.  I have a beautiful wife, Holly, and two kids, Jensen (2) and Lainey (5 months).

The most important thing I learned at KIDSTOP is how to be part of a team and how to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds.  I learned that not everyone has the same interests as me, and that is great!  The multitude of opportunities and programs at KIDSTOP allowed me to explore physical activities, social recreation, and art activities, amongst others.  I learned that everyone is talented in different areas of life and we can all benefit from each other’s differences.

From the time I was in first grade, I looked up to the aforementioned staff members from KIDSTOP (Paige, Pete, and Andy).  There were many other staff members who took interest in me, but those were the staff members who I really connected with.  They were more than just staff to me.  They were “cool college students who acted as big brothers.”  As I began to think about what I wanted to do with my own career, I thought of how much those staff members impacted me and how much they guided me in my life.  I wanted to give back in the same way that the KIDSTSOP staff members gave to me.  Shortly after I was hired as a KIDSTOP staff, I attended a staff training, and Paige was leading the training.  I hadn’t seen Paige in 7 years, but he still had the same impact on me.  I admired his enthusiasm while he administered the training, and he was still the same Paige that I had met back in first grade.  When I began working at KIDSTOP, I brought the same excitement and energy that Paige brought everyday.  Even crazier, when I was hired in Becker, upon graduating college, I discovered that Paige’s wife, Nikki, was a colleague of mine, teaching third grade. Flash forward five years, and Paige was hired in Becker to take over the after-school program.  Today, I get to see the mentor that I had when I was seven years old every day when I go to work.  To this day, Paige and I have a great relationship, and we talk each day!  I still try to approach each school day with the enthusiasm and energy that Paige brought to KIDSTOP every day.