Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s President & CEO Jim Clark visits St. Cloud for the launch of CareerSTART

Our future can be seen by the state of kids and teens today. We are at a time when 11.3 million school age children are home without adult supervision after school, one out of six students fail to graduate on time and nearly half of youth don’t believe the American dream is possible.

But we know it doesn’t have to be this way: 97% of Boys & Girls Club teens expect to graduate from high school, and 83% of Club members believe they can make a difference in their community.

This is why Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota has launched CareerSTART: a new, locally developed program designed to provide exploration, development and application of career paths for youth in grades K-12, to develop employability skills & apply core competencies, which will empower them to start their great future in the career of their choice.

On Monday, September 9, 2019, nearly 200 business members in the community showed their support of youth career readiness programs by attending Boys & Girls Club’s official launch of the CareerSTART program.

“We are very excited to officially launch CareerSTART right here in Central Minnesota,” said Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota’s President & CEO Mary Swingle. “CareerSTART will ensure our community’s young people are skilled and ready to pursue the career of their dreams. The Club is making this happen by harnessing the power of our professional youth development mentors and strong programming, combined with community partnerships that provide a continuum of support for our youth all the way through post-secondary graduation.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s President & CEO Jim Clark arrived in St. Cloud for the day to convey his appreciation and support of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota’s innovative approach to prepare youth for the workforce.

“If we’re not preparing the next generation of workforce in this country, we’re not going to have a future that we all so richly want,” said Clark. “This project here, CareerSTART, will be a model for all Boys & Girls Clubs in the nation. The way that Central Minnesota is putting this together and collaborating with the community is exceptional.”

The launch event marked an important milestone in the signing of a partnership agreement with St. Cloud Technical & Community College to provide a continuum of mentorship and support for all CareerSTART scholars from high school graduation, though post-secondary graduation.

“We know that for far too many SCTCC students, life gets in the way of their continued progress and success,” said Annesa Cheek, SCTCC President. “There are barriers that must be removed so that more students don’t drop out and miss out on their dreams and goals for themselves and their families.”

“SCTCC’s compliment, CareerACHIEVE, is our new program aligned with CareerSTART, and will be a year round program that provides for goal development, mitigating or removing barriers, and providing holistic wrap around supports focused on early success and building independence so that students can move more seamlessly and successfully from SCTCC to the workplace.”

Thanks to support from the Windfeldt family, CareerSTART scholars who complete all components of the CareerSTART program will be eligible to receive a CareerPROMISE full scholarship to attend St. Cloud Technical and Community College, after all financial aid has been applied. This scholarship effectively removes the financial barriers many of youth see to achieving success.

“We know that CareerSTART will be successful because it incorporates a strong network of community support from local schools and colleges, employers, workforce centers, the military and the community-at-large,” said Swingle.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota will need to raise about $250,000 annually to fund the CareerSTART program. In addition to funders, the organization is continuing to seek and strengthen partnerships with community businesses and organizations to build a network of support. For more information on how you can support CareerSTART, please contact the Boys & Girls Club at 320-252-7616 or




More information about CareerSTART:

Boys & Girls Club will partner with numerous community organizations to provide the three stages of CareerSTART.

EXPLORE – Stage 1: Career Exploration Club

Clubs and KIDSTOP sites will offer field trips and career speakers in small, age-appropriate groups on a monthly basis. Careers will be featured in programming, appear on bulletin boards and staff will reinforce a common career language, in what we call a transformation to a career-driven strategy across our programs.

DEVELOP – Stage 2: Career Development Club

As youth enter middle school, they will have the opportunity to develop career readiness skills, with programs like Career Launch that teach youth how to create a resume, fill out job applications and perform mock interviews. Money Matters teaches youth financial literacy, how to open a bank account, what credit is and why it’s important, and the financial aid process. Youth can explore careers in human services with our Junior Staff Career Development Program. The Club also offers a culinary trades program and the construction trades.

APPLY – Stage 3: Career Apprentice Club

Once youth enter high school, they will meet with Club mentors to apply for work outside the Club, internships, and post-secondary education. They will finish the financial aid process. Youth who complete all CareerSTART components will be eligible for a scholarship to attend St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Upon high school graduation, Club staff will continue to mentor CareerSTART scholars to ensure successful post-secondary graduation and career satisfaction. We have developed a partnership agreement with St. Cloud Technical and Community College to create a continuum of support for CareerSTART scholars throughout college. This program is called Career ACHIEVE and creates a holistic student wrap-around support program designed to close achievement gaps and aid successful program completion at SCTCC.