GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – A devastating pandemic that closed schools and led to distance learning, isolation from friends and much uncertainty has challenged students for more than two years.
Despite the many, often-changing and sometimes overwhelming obstacles, three young women continued to focus on their education, passions – and future.
Now, those young women will graduate from high school – and The Friendship Club, a 27-year-old program where they have learned many life skills, developed special friendships and that helped prepare them for the next step. The Friendship Club is one of three programs of Bright Futures for Youth.
“These three young women are extraordinary and very resilient,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth. “Being a teenager, as we all know, can be so difficult, even during the best of times with the emotional and physical changes to the peer pressure and the demands of school. Throw in the COVID pandemic and all of the curves that followed, and it’s amazing what these young women have achieved through dedication and hard work.”
The three soon-to-be graduates will share their accomplishments, challenges and experiences – and how The Friendship Club helped them – during a Grad Night celebration at 6 p.m.on Wednesday, May 25, on KNCO-AM (830) and STAR-FM (94.1).
“These three young women are excellent examples of what can be achieved when you are committed to reaching your goals,” said Machen MacDonald, President of the Bright Futures for Youth Board. “We applaud their efforts and are looking forward to sharing the stories of their success.”
The three young women were sophomores in high school when the first case of COVID was confirmed in early 2020. Their lives, like those of so many others, changed dramatically, from attending school online to The Friendship Club after-school program.
The Friendship Club, quickly adapted during the early days of the pandemic, establishing online get-togethers and life-skills classes, hosting smaller in-person groups and providing girls access to healthy meals, health care and counseling, if needed.
“The Friendship Club is so much more than just an after-school program,” Singer said. “We’ve evolved in so many ways, because the needs are so much greater today, especially during the past two years. We’re an advocate, a helping hand, a support system.”
The Friendship Club helps girls in many ways, including applying for college and financial assistance. The nonprofit offers scholarships for Friendship Club graduates enrolled in college or vocational training. The scholarships are available thanks in part to a generous investment by David and Barbra Nurse to the organization’s endowment in memory of their mothers. The couple encourages others to contribute to Bright Futures for Youth to honor important women in their lives.
The Friendship Club has helped empower and educate about 1,000 girls and young women since 1995, including 100 during the soon-to-be completed school year. The Friendship Club helps sixth- through 12th-grade girls and young women in Nevada County.
The 2022 Friendship Club graduating class are:
- Gracee Butrick: Gracee has found her passion in the performing arts – acting and singing – and performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Willy Wonka while attending Colfax High School. She was also involved in Link Crew, a program that helped freshmen navigate high school life. She will continue her education at Sierra College, and would like to become a high school drama teacher.
- Ireland Brown: Ireland has always been an active volunteer with The Friendship Club, from sewing blankets to donate to the hospital to helping with the Grass Valley Community/Veterans Dance. The Nevada Union High School graduate enjoys dancing, drawing and writing. She will attend either College of the Redwoods or Sierra College, where she is looking forward to studying geology and environmental sciences. She plans to transfer to the University of California, Davis or UC-Santa Cruz.
- Lux-Aaliyah Brown: Lux-Aaliyah, a Nevada Union graduate, has only been with The Friendship Club for a year, but she has attended almost every meeting and connected with so many of the girls. She is passionate about animals, drawing, music – and helping others. She plans to attend Sierra College, the first step in her goal of becoming a social worker. The career will allow her to give back to others, the way others have helped her.
About Bright Futures for Youth
Bright Futures for Youth is a nonprofit committed to making a life-changing difference for children and young adults in Nevada County. Bright Futures for Youth – created by the merger of The Friendship Club and NEO Youth Center in 2020 – has three programs: The Friendship Club, founded in 1995; NEO, founded in 2008; and SAFE, launched in 2019 to help youth experiencing homelessness. Bright Futures for Youth focuses on health and wellness, healthy relationships, goal setting, self-awareness, self-sufficiency and community connectedness. For more information, visit www.bffyouth.org or Facebook at Facebook.com/BrightFuturesforYouth.