When heading toward the lakefront on the south end of the grounds, Chautauquans won’t be surprised to see a mass of children running, biking and laughing around Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Jenny Beeson Gregory spent numerous childhood summers doing just that, and she remembers it fondly.
Gregory has visited Chautauqua nearly every summer, and she said her life has been better for it. To ensure more children have the opportunity enjoy Chautauqua and Club, she established a scholarship program that will launch next year.
“[I want] to give back in a way that isn’t just giving money but directly helping kids who might not have an opportunity like I had to come to Club,” Gregory said.
The program will offer three need-based scholarships for local youth to enjoy one week at Club. It also provides children the opportunity to explore Chautauqua’s various arts facilities and programs during the midday breaks.
The scholarship award would enable the families of these students to attend a Family Entertainment Series program and provide each family with a “Welcome to Club” gift package, gas card and stipend for meals.
While at Club, Gregory made lifelong friends and even met her husband. Match-making aside, Gregory believes Club can not only forge lasting connections, but also potentially shape a child’s life.
“I have friends here that I’ve had since I was 4 years old that I still visit with and see,” she said. “Club had a lot to do with that.”
Gregory sees fewer examples of lasting Club friendships, she said. Accordingly, she conceived of the scholarship with inclusiveness in mind.
“I’m hoping for more diversity,” Gregory said, focusing the scholarship applicant pool on middle-school students who reside in Chautauqua County.
Gregory is partnering with Matt Ewalt, associate director of Education and Youth Services, and Megan Sorenson, associate director and communications manager of the Chautauqua Fund, to launch a pilot program in spring 2016.
Gregory said she, Ewalt and Sorenson plan to promote the scholarship in local schools and through partnerships with after-school programs throughout Chautauqua County.
Children around the age of 10 seem to have “the right amount of independence and interest” to enjoy the totality of Club and its offerings, Gregory said.
Ever since she was a counselor, Gregory said she has enjoyed watching Clubbers grow up. She hopes to do the same for the children who attend as a result of the scholarship.
“I’m really excited to meet the kids themselves and learn about their lives and, perhaps, make a difference,” she said.