Children comprise almost one third of the population of Phillips County, Arkansas, and they bear the brunt of the regional decline — 46 percent of Phillips County's children live in poverty, less than 30 percent show proficiency on 11th grade literacy tests, and teen pregnancy rates are significantly higher than the national average. In response to the burden these statistics place on children and their families, Southern Bancorp Capital Partners helped finance and raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County to create a safe and nurturing place for children to learn, play, and grow. Three years after the Club opened, it had over 500 members.
These children's lives are being transformed by their experiences at the Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County. Club members, who previously only worried about the here and now, are being taught and encouraged to dream and plan for their futures. For example, as a high school senior, Orlando Jones thought college was out of reach. But he became a Club member and, after discovering his love of mentoring, a staff member. He was selected as Youth of the Year for Arkansas, won a nationally competitive scholarship through the Boys & Girls Club and the Charles Schwab Foundation and started planning for college. "Before I became involved with the Money Matters program [at the Club], I would think only about what was happening in the present, but now I am focused on setting specific goals for the future. I am very excited about going to college. Afterwards, I'm interested in being a Teach for America teacher and then going back to graduate school to complete my education," said Orlando. His life exemplifies the change SBCP promotes—he values education; he sets ambitious, achievable goals; and he gives back to his community.