If you live in New York City and have a son between the ages of 6 and 20, there is a great place for him to learn leadership skills, have fun, and participate in programs that will help him stay in school and go on to college. Since 1876, The Boys Club of New York has offered New York’s boys hope for a better future.

There are currently three clubhouses in the boroughs, and it’s easy to join one—just $5 will cover your son’s membership for the school year. After school programs are offered from 3-9pm, and professional educators offer homework help, tutoring, college prep, and more.

The current Clubhouse Programs are as follows: Stand Tall: Character Development & Life Skills; Hit a Home Run: Sports & Recreation; Express Yourself: the Josie Robertson School of Music and Art; Exercise Your Mind: Academic Support and Enrichment Programs; and Feel Great: Mental & Physical Health. It’s a well-rounded curriculum—one that will teach boys and entertain them at the same time. There is a moral code that influences all the programs. When kids become members they might not know what they are getting into, but they soon realize that they need to be team players, have a good positive attitude, work and be willing to study and get good grades. They realize the opportunities that can come their way by practicing these character traits and work habits.

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I have visited two clubhouses—with boys looking healthy, vibrant and happy to be there. They look like they are doing something important, and they are. They are staying away from drug dealers, gang members, and all the dangers that await city kids on the streets. Instead, here at the BCNY clubhouse, they are learning how to get along with others, to communicate clearly and effectively, to do the right thing and make the right choices—skills that will help them now and throughout their lives.

The Independent School Placement Program (ISP) is run by Antonio Aponte, Director of the Department of Education Services (DES). Aponte knows what he is talking about when he talks to “his kids” because he came through the program himself. Established in 1957, the ISP grooms boys to enter college preparatory schools. Currently the BCNY works with 37 different prep schools in 10 states.

I was recently invited by Aponte to a Senior and Alumni Meeting at the Gerry Clubhouse. Sitting around the table were handsome, young adult men of every color and background. Kevin Murray, President of the Youth Council, asked each to introduce himself, what school they were graduating from, and to mention an achievement and a challenge they experienced during their senior year. Many spoke about being in honors programs. Challenges were few; the biggest seemed to be time management issues. They shared advice on how to navigate college and stay out of trouble. Bill Mitchell, Assistant Director of Educational Services talked to the boys about financial aid, scholarships and work/study programs.

The program’s success is evident, with recent ICS alumni attending Colgate University, Syracuse University, even Yale. And the list goes on and on.

You know what I didn’t see at The Boys Club of New York? I didn’t see one kid with his pants hanging down past his butt, walking like a penguin. I didn’t see drugs. I didn’t see gang tattoos or bad attitudes. If you want your son to have the best shot at life—from staying in school to staying out of trouble to going on to college—run, don’t walk to the nearest clubhouse. You won’t regret it, and neither will he.