“March 16th, 2020 was one of the worst days of my life. The board of directors held an emergency meeting to discuss the fate of operations, and whether or not we were going to be able to keep the doors open to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County.” The COVID-19 virus had just struck the United States and Director of Operations, Joey Schueler, was in a meeting with the Ada County Board. All employees were faced with so many unknowns and they had to make an impossible decision. Fortunately for the Club, they were able to stay open for those that needed them most while keeping strict safety protocols in place. “We were one of only 4% of all Club organizations nationwide who remained open…many day cares and youth care facilities throughout the Treasure Valley closed and laid off hundreds of employees,” Schueler said. Because they are deemed an essential service, the Club has been able to assist so many in need for what has become one of the hardest years to date.
Before Schueler found himself working for the Club, he was born and raised in a small farm town outside of Echo, Minnesota, population 300 and shrinking. Joey attended Gustavus Adolphus College from 1999-2002, where he received a bachelor’s degree in World Religions with a focus in Inter-Religious Dialogue and Conflict Management. While attending undergraduate school, Joey took a study abroad course to India where he studied Rural and Urban Development of Surrounding Communities. This trip was a transformational experience for Joey. Here is where he was able to capture his why in life. “Just like any world traveler, when you take a step outside of your comfort zone, you receive a vantage point to reflect on all you’ve ever known which also gives you the opportunity to critique your perspective along with where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you want to go moving forward. I came back knowing I wanted to make a positive difference in my own community.”
Traveling to India was more than a school trip for Schueler. It was here that he had his first experience with culture shock and was humbled by a completely different view of the world. While in India, his class encountered several marginalized populations in impoverished areas, in which Joey described as “systemic marginalization”. Here they saw children running around in their hand-made garments with a smile plastered on their face. “Poverty didn’t equate to a bad attitude, or horrible-ness…they could be happy in those spaces too, but also, I learned that there are ways to improve the lives of everyone in a community through upstream investments in that community. I also learned that the people themselves are the ones who should find those upstream solutions, as opposed to someone who was a ‘visitor’.”
Fast forward a few weeks to September 11, 2001. Joey and his classmates were still abroad and had just woken up to the news of the Twin Tower’s crashing. “We saw a lot of different responses from America, and so much love and support from the people in India. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Looking back, being 22 years old you’re in a place in your life where you want new experiences, and then this happens. I gained a lot from being in a different country during that time.” This really shifted the trip and ended up cutting it short by a few months. As Schueler headed back to the U.S., he reflected on his time and was determined to return to his own community to help shape the world in the best way he could. He knew he could make a difference.
Although originally from Minnesota, Joey found himself moving to the great state of Idaho after graduation in 2002. His only connection out west was his sister who was a teacher in Cascade, Idaho. Once he moved, Joey submerged himself in all things outdoors and
eventually met his wife Nicole. Aside from his involvement in youth services, Joey loves fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and he and his wife are part of the Board of Directors for the Southern Idaho Sailing Association. Recently, Schueler was appointed as the Cruise Fleet Chair on their board. He enjoys spending spring and summer days on their twenty-five-foot sailboat. For Nicole, Joey, and their dog Drake, Idaho has become home.
After graduation and moving, Joey landed a job at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County, and has been there ever since. During his career, Joey has also earned a Master’s in Public Administration at Boise State and was invited back as an adjunct professor in recent years to teach Intro to Nonprofit Management and Collaboration. For Schueler, education has always been highly valued, and he was able to translate this passion over to his work at Boise State and the Club.
When reflecting on his time at the Boys & Girls Club, he highlights how their staff works hard to have a “pro-social” approach, and ultimately wants the kids and teens to buy-in on their own to the program. The Boys & Girls Club knows that there isn’t one solution to what they are faced with on a daily basis. The Club encounters children and young adults from all walks of life, which include homelessness, home transitions, etc., and they work hard to maintain safety as their top priority. Schueler notes that, “there is no silver bullet to youth development, kind of like everyone has an approach that works for them…those that come in with a positive mindset, the sky’s the limit from what they can get from this program.”
Recognizing the uniqueness of each child and working to pull the best out of them through positive affirmation, motivation, and discipline has created a generational aspect for the Club. Joey still keeps in contact with several adults that went through the Club in past years, with some of the alumni now leading the Clubs, and notes how amazing it is to be able to see where they are now in life. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County wants to break the stigma of being the place “where the poor kids go”, and instead create a safe space for anyone, in any walk of life, to come and find sanctuary. “I tell kids, we aren’t here to tell you what to think. I want you to learn how to think for yourself. Because the outcome we want for the kids is to be a healthy adult and a caring citizen, but I don’t get to label that for them because we all have our own path”, says Schueler. For a lot of these kids, it’s one of the first times they can have access to nutrient dense meals, participate in healthy activities, and feel like they are being heard by the Club staff.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County works day-in and out to maintain their five-point value system, Respect,Integrity, Safety, Empathy, and Resilience, and is equipped with a staff that is a “force for good”. They need someone who will ask them about their day and be consistent. Changing “do better”, to “I know you can do better”. You’re not another customer, you’re a human-being that we want to see be productive and successful.”
What’s Your Why commends the whole Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County staff and are extremely thankful to have a safe space for so many young children and teens to feel valued and grow into their most authentic self. Schueler notes that he thanks the “gracious support of the entire community. You know you are part of a community that cares when you have a Boys & Girls Club in it. Many hands make light work.”
Below are several ways that you can help with donations! Due to COVID-19, the club is not accepting volunteers at this time.
Club Wish List: https://www.adaclubs.org/get-involved/club-wish-list/
Ways to Give: https://www.adaclubs.org/get-involved/waystogive/
Planned Giving: https://www.adaclubs.org/plannedgiving/
“Overarching, in your heart you probably know what you’re passionate about.
Follow that path.” - Joey Schueler