The idea for The Friendship Club program came from Mary Collier, the director of a mentoring program in a local school district serving younger disadvantaged children (the PAL program). Mary recognized that the teenage girls who had aged out of the PAL program were coming to her asking for continued guidance and support. In answer to those needs, Mary formed the idea of The Friendship Club and asked Jennifer Litton (Singer) and Amanda Chavez to join her in the summer of 1995. That summer, The Friendship Club program served fifteen area girls in a weeklong summer program.
The Friendship Club program has since grown to a year-round program that serves 100 girls in 6th-12th grades annually. It is a long-term prevention program designed to meet the needs of growing teenage girls and our comprehensive approach is not only unparalleled in Western Nevada County, it is unique enough to be considered a model for rural communities across the Country.
In 2019, The Friendship Club developed and implemented the SAFE (Stability Access Foundation Empowerment) program for youth (boys and girls) experiencing homelessness. This is a three-year pilot program designed to support participating youth in an intensive year-round program that is individualized to their needs. This program supports youth in western Nevada County from the end of their junior year in high school through the completion of a Career Technical Education certificate or equivalent so that they can earn a living wage in support of self-sufficiency.
Both The Friendship Club program and SAFE program are professionally staffed with a total of five full-time and four part-time employees. The Associate Director has her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership and oversees all of the programs, their connections with outside partners for supportive services for youth and families, and implements ongoing evaluation efforts to measure program impact on the youth served. The two full-time Youth Development Directors have their teaching credentials (one is completing hers in Spring 2020) and they work directly with the girls, develop program curriculum and oversee its implementation, and supervise the two Youth Development Assistants. Two of our employees are Friendship Club alumni, who wanted to come back and make a difference in the organization that made a difference in their lives.
The work of The Friendship Club is strongly supported by the local community. Most of the funding comes from individuals and businesses in the area. Over 150 community members volunteer to help The Friendship Club accomplish its mission.