THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2004


Thank you, Mieasha. Congratulations on being named Boys & Girls Clubs National Youth of the Year and on your many other accomplishments. You can be very proud of all you have contributed to your family, your Boys & Girls Club, and your community.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to be here today and to commend Boys & Girls Clubs on its 144 years of service to America's young people. We at the Justice Department are proud of the long and strong relationship between the agency I head, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. And we look forward to continuing our partnership on behalf of our nation's youth.

We know that the preventive approach adopted by the Boys and Girls Clubs can have a tremendous impact in helping young people make the right choices in their lives. At the Office of Justice Programs, we feel strongly about our responsibility to identify and support effective programs that truly make a positive difference in the quality of life of people in this country.

Robbie knows of my personal belief in measuring outcomes, the actual impact of our work. I'm delighted to see that you have a session scheduled this morning on "Impact - Our Most Important Job."

And we know that the Boys & Girls Clubs make a difference in kids' lives. One reason for your success is that club staff members serve as role models for youth. I don't think I have to remind this group, but experts tell us that the most critical element in a child's life is a strong relationship with a caring adult.

This shows that you know it's not enough just to feel good because you're engaged in a good cause; you must be sure that what you are doing is making a positive difference for those young people who have entrusted their very lives to your care.

An evaluation found that youth who experience such a relationship are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol. The study also found that these young people are one-third less likely to act out aggressively with others and are truant only about half as much as other youth. And truancy, as you know, leads to additional risks for children.

Unfortunately, we know that far too many children today do not have a positive adult role model in their lives. To help address this problem, earlier this month we announced a new partnership effort with the National Network of Youth Ministries. The goal of the National Mentoring Recruitment Campaign is to increase the number of adults serving as mentors for children in need of guidance and support.

Our new Campaign will recruit adult mentors through the 100,000 churches and 250,000 adult youth workers involved with the National Network of Youth Ministries. The 250,000 church-based youth worker members of the Network will serve as a significant pool of potential recruiters as we work together to increase the number of caring adults willing to mentor a child or teenager in a local school, neighborhood, or institution.

I encourage you to become involved in this effort and to reach out to faith-based organizations in your community to recruit mentors for youth in your clubs. This effort provides just one more tool - in addition to the many other programs available through Boys & Girls Clubs -- for helping at-risk youth and improving their opportunity for a brighter future.

Another successful partnership effort that I want to mention this morning is your program called Gang Prevention and Intervention Through Targeted Outreach, which is supported by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and conducted by a number of Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country. I want to encourage those of you who aren't familiar with this program to consider adopting it in your jurisdictions.

The most recent National Youth Gang Survey published by our Juvenile Justice Office found that, after leveling off in the late nineties, gang activity is once again on the rise in this country.

Gangs also are becoming increasingly vicious. Just last week, across the river from Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia, an 18-year-old member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha - or MS 13 - gang was arrested and charged with attacking a 16-year-old member of the rival South Side Locos gang with a machete, cutting off several fingers and nearly severing one of his hands.

Boys & Girls Clubs provide a wholesome alternative to gang activity, and I sincerely thank all of you for your dedicated efforts to keep young people out of gangs and on the right path.

I also want to commend those of you who are taking the Boys and Girls Club concept into a new arena - juvenile correctional facilities.

As some of you may know, Boys & Girls Clubs in four states -- Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, and Wisconsin -- are participating in the Targeted Reentry Project. The project is part of a larger Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative that the Office of Justice Programs is implementing in every state in partnership with the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and several other federal agencies.

Under the Reentry Initiative, state departments of correction partner with law enforcement, human services, faith-based, and other community organizations to provide supervision and services to reduce recidivism by offenders returning to their communities after incarceration.

With funding from our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Boys & Girls Clubs in the four pilot states are working with their state departments of correction to open clubs within juvenile detention centers.

In addition to providing recreational and vocational programs, the clubs will follow participating youth as they reenter their communities following their release and serve as a bridge to services in the community. The goal is to provide the supervision and services these young people need to help them stay out of crime and on the right path.

We're also funding an evaluation of the Targeted Reentry Projects. Researchers from Indiana University are working with each of the pilot sites to find out what works, what doesn't, and what we can learn to help other clubs across the country provide services for incarcerated youth and bring the successful delinquency prevention approach of the Boys and Girls Clubs to this special population.

Because of our history of successful partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, we're looking at additional opportunities to work with you. For example, we know that to truly help children, we all need to be working together - federal, state, and local agencies; law enforcement; the schools; human services; and faith- and community-based organizations.

For example: If you don't know about Amachi, the effort spearheaded by the committed and charismatic former mayor of Philadelphia, Dr. Wilson Goode, I encourage you to learn about it. Amachi seeks to provide mentors for the children of incarcerated parents, probably the group of children at greatest risk in our society. I think this particular challenge would be a great opportunity for some your clubs to reach out to a group of children in serious need of your help.

We've been working closely with your National Office to design a series of opportunities that will enable you to more effectively partner with law enforcement. We're planning to hold a National Law Enforcement Crime Prevention Conference this fall, where we'll provide you with more information about opportunities for law enforcement and youth partnerships. So please stay tuned for future announcements.

I want to thank all of you for everything you are doing to help young men and women realize their tremendous potential by staying in school, out of trouble, and away from drugs and alcohol. Through your work, you are making a significant contribution to the lives of our nation's youth, the safety of our communities, and the future of our country.

As Attorney general Ashcroft said just yesterday at our National Missing Children's Day ceremonies in Washington, "Children may make up only 25% of the population, but they make up 100% of our future."

In recognition of your outstanding contributions to America, the United States Congress, again this year, has directed significant financial support to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I'd like to ask [BGCA's president] Roxanne Spillet, National Youth of the Year Mieasha Hicks, and Robbie Callaway to please join me at the podium....

To help continue the tremendous work of Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the world, it gives me great pleasure to present to you this check in the amount of $80 million. Congratulations, and thanks very much to all of you for your unwavering commitment to the youth of America.