The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland was a home away from home for Christopher Gale from childhood until he arrived at Grand Valley State University in 2009. Not only did he attend the club on a daily basis from the time he was a second grade student, the organization helped make his dream of receiving a college degree a reality. As an adolescent, Gale’s time spent at the Boys and Girls Club just seemed like a fun after school activity; little did he know that someday it would turn into a career for him. Now living in Pennsylvania, he is the manager of literacy initiatives for the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. Gale said that if it wouldn’t have been for the organization he grew up with, encouraging him and making it possible for him to receive his degree from Grand Valley, he certainly might not have ended up where he is today.
Even after high school, Gale continued showing up at the club. He was dismissed from his first choice college after only a short time and lost the scholarships he had received. During his educational transition, the staff of BGCH became a source of encouragement for Gale and he continued to pursue his degree, while utilizing a Boys & Girls Club Scholarship.
“The staff members at the BGCH are the biggest reason I went to college in the first place,” Gale said.
Gale chose GVSU for its reputation of academic excellence and the scholarship opportunities available to him. He decided on a degree in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management because he wanted to have an impact on positive change in the world. He received his degree in 2012.
While a student at Grand Valley, Gale was a member of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, Phi Iota Alpha, and the Service Learning program. He also worked with the Fredrick Meijer Office of Fellowships to apply for the Truman Fellowship. Gale said that the education he received at GVSU has allowed him to apply the academic lessons and his service learning experiences to real world situations.
“I have found more opportunities than I expected to use the knowledge gained in my general education courses within different situations in my career,” Gale said.
Following his undergraduate degree, he was offered a full-tuition scholarship to pursue his Master of Public Administration at Villanova University which he finished in early 2014.
“The only reason I began to consider grad school was because of Jennifer Lattin, the Director of HR and Grants at BGCH and an adjunct professor at GVSU. They really pushed me to aspire to earn my MPA,” Gale said.
While working toward his degree, he also secured his position at the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. He initially began as a program measurement coordinator, and then was promoted to his current position as manager of literacy initiatives.
“On a day-to-day basis, I’m responsible for planning, implementing, and overseeing staff who instruct small to medium sized groups of school-aged, urban youth in a multisensory literary approach,” Gale explained.
While many residents are fearful of the tough neighborhoods in Philadelphia, that is where Gale thrives. He teaches literacy skills to kids in a neighborhood in the Northeast section of the city. He recently surprised all of his program participants with brand new bicycles.
“Their smiles and their parents’ gratitude were priceless and it still makes me smile to think about it,” he said.
Most of Gale’s fondest memories of BGCH are tied to specific staff members, which he believes are the best part about the club.
“As a current club professional, I understand that my job has the most impact when caring adults invest in the lives of youth. I can definitely see that pattern happening throughout my childhood with BGCH,” said Gale.
As for the future, Gale hopes to someday be a CEO/Executive Director of a nonprofit and also hopes to eventually get into government relations for a large, nonprofit, such as the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Update: February 2015 Gale transitioned with his wife, Yvonne and their two sons, Issac and Anthony to Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His role as an administrator includes overseeing the family service center in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philly. The organization offers a variety of services from food pantries, a clothing bank, a benefits access program, pregnancy and parenting programs, nutrition programs, and youth programs. Gale enjoys the work and appreciates how it relates to both his undergraduate and graduate degrees.