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Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida plan expansion after $7M donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

The organization is working to expand by 30 percent, and that process may be sped up thanks to a nearly $7 million donation from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Parents, listen up! As your kids get ready for the school day, ask their thoughts about being a part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida. 

There could be plans for a new one near you.

The organization is working to expand by 30 percent, and that process may be sped up thanks to a nearly $7 million donation from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

They'll have to add 17 clubs in the next three years to reach their goal of 55 clubs by 2025.

First Coast News went to the Boys and Girls Club at Ed White High School, which has only been there for a year and a half. CEO Paul Martinez says it used to be a storage facility.

You wouldn't know it by looking at it, nor would you know that the clubs' Youth of the Year and Club President, would've been hiding from the camera a year and a half ago.

"I started looking at myself with way more confidence than before," the club's president said about how she's changed since joining the club. 

"I can now voice the opinion of my peers. Because some people are too scared, or some people don't know where they can get the space for it. So my job is to speak up for them on any issues we have, whether it be a social issue, or just an issue with wanting to do something that they can't do."

RELATED: Boys & Girls Clubs open new Jacksonville location, plan adjacent $1 million sports complex

Finding this leadership in more kids and young adults is the goal, but they need more clubs first.

"There's about 80 kids that come every day after school," Martinez said about the club at Ed White High School. "There's a waiting list of another 40."

He says they don't plan to build new clubs, but work with their partnerships with schools and parks to establish clubs in buildings that already exist.

"Where do we want to go?" Martinez said. "Because the need is so strong here in Northeast Florida, wherever there's space for us."

Clanzel T. Brown Community Center opened a Boys and Girls Club in December and was praised by city leaders as a step to keep kids from getting into trouble and on a path to graduate high school. 

The Boys and Girls Club reports 97 percent of their members graduate high school. Flowers graduates this spring.

"Once I leave the club, I want to make sure that the club is set up for success all the time and that our future president is going to be able to maintain the same foundation that me and Ms. Skipper are building right now," the club's president said.

The foundation, her club, first had to be built for her.    

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