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Boys and Girls Club of America recognizes partnership between Notre Dame, St. Joseph County

| Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A recent partnership between the University of Notre Dame and the Boys and Girls of St. Joseph County has garnered attention and recognition from the Boys and Girls Club of America.

In collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County, the Office of the Executive Vice President’s University Enterprises and Events (UEE) formed a 12-week program that allows members of the Boys and Girls Club between the ages of 15 and 18 to gain paid work experience and hospitality skills through employment at various establishments on campus.

A working relationship has long existed between the University of Notre Dame and the Boys and Girls Club, but both groups are looking to expand this pre-existing partnership, said Ashley Zingo, UEE director of employee engagement, and Jacqueline Kronk, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County.

Recent staffing shortages prompted Zingo to create a program that taught young adults of the St. Joseph County community hospitality skills while simultaneously finding a solution to the University’s employment difficulties, she said.

“We kind of hit this dip with staffing,” Zingo said. “Actually, the whole world has. So, we were looking at new and creative ways for us to bring in new staff to the University.”

Zingo said finding employees was not the only goal of the partnership.

“We quickly realized that it wasn’t really just about the staff. It was about asking how we create these long-term relationships, and then how we help those in our community,” she said. “Our goal is to really prepare the students for the workforce and provide them with learning opportunities.”

The 12-week program found great success when it began in January with nine Boys and Girls Club members being accepted and taking part in three different employment rotations. 

The first rotation began with Boys and Girls Club members working in North and South Dining Hall. They have since moved on to their second rotation, which includes retail dining jobs at Hagerty Family Cafe in the Duncan Student Center or at Subway in the LaFortune Student Center. The third rotation will conclude with work alongside the catering department.

Kronk, who has worked with the Boys and Girls Club for just over 10 years, highlighted how meaningful the program has been for the individuals involved.

“I think it’s really unique, the way that Ashley [Zingo] and her team have interacted with them on a very personal level,” Kronk said. “Our teams feel that and they respond to that, and they feel invested in [it]. It turns out when you care about people and you treat them well, they’re going to want to do good things for you, and they want to rise for you.”

The personalized interactions between UEE and the Boys and Girls Club go beyond employment, however.

Learning events are put on every week to encourage the young participants to expand their knowledge of the workforce and hospitality. The teens involved have been given lessons on resume-building and will have the opportunity to shadow and learn from one of Notre Dame’s executive chefs later this week.

The innovation behind this partnership and the work of the Boys and Girls Club members are the main factors that have led to the program’s national recognition by the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Zingo and Kronk have both shared their enthusiasm about the program’s success. 

“Notre Dame does amazing things everyday, and sometimes they really go unnoticed, so I think it was really good to have it highlighted and to show that we are community partners and that’s important to us,” Zingo said. 

Kronk, on the other hand, honed in on how the recognition bolstered the confidence of the Boys and Girls Club and how it solidified the importance of their efforts. 

“I think the kids were really excited to be recognized in this fashion, but I also believe that they know they’re worthy of this,” Kronk said. “They’re patting themselves on the back a little bit, and they should be, because they’re remarkable, and the sky’s the limit for them.” 

UEE hopes to continue this partnership into the fall of 2022 in order to promote engagement between young adults in the South Bend Community and Notre Dame, Zingo said.

Kronk said she hopes Notre Dame students, faculty and staff will pursue volunteer opportunities with the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County following the success of this work experience program.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in the Notre Dame bubble and to get mired in what we’re doing and focused, but there are mutually beneficial opportunities to get outside of that bubble and to get involved and engaged,” Kronk said. “When you invest in young people, it really does make our community a better place.”

Volunteering opportunities can be found on the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County website.

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