The Boys & Girls Clubs of America have provided safe spaces for children and teenagers to learn sports, study after school and attend summer camps for decades. The organization has traditionally provided care for students, but now one location in Michigan is opening its doors to parents. 

“We can give kids the tools to be successful in the future, but by doing a two-generational approach, we’re able to help their parents which increases their quality of life,” Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan (BGCSM) President and CEO Shawn H. Wilson said. 

The Boys & Girls Club at the Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus has launched Adult Membership, a Ponyride co-working space and innovation lab. Memberships are $40 per month, which includes access to the lab and space. The Ponyride co-working space officially opened in August and has since attracted nearly 50 local entrepreneurs and small businesses to the location. The Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus is the first Boys & Girls Club, to offer adult membership and the move is set to help offset losses from its student membership. 

Reworking the facility has also opened doors to teaching students more about tech entrepreneurship. Wilson said he hopes to bring some of the co-working space’s clients to speak with children, who would otherwise not know about the intricacies of the startup world. 

BGCSM’s success could spark a trend for other Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. According to Wilson, at least six other facilities are looking to implement their own co-working spaces and offer adult memberships. 

“We’re maximizing that space during the day to build and serve adults in the greater community,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of clubs are interested in that model.”

Wilson joined the Boys & Girls Club in 2018 to revamp the organization and boost its membership and retention. Before becoming the president and CEO of BGCSM, Wilson led initiatives for Usher’s nonprofit New Look Foundation and Ford Motor Company Fund. 

Photo courtesy of Shawn H. Wilson

Wilson encourages Boys & Girls Club students to become social entrepreneurs and hopes that bringing students closer to local founders will be a huge motivator. He also plans to put social impact and community engagement at the forefront of his work at the BGCSM. The organization’s newest changes began as a community idea after BGCSM conducted a survey.

“We needed to figure out how to reimagine a 93-year-old company for today’s youth and today’s community,” Wilson said. The BGCSM invested $500,000 in renovating the facility to create the co-working space and rooms for student and parent vocational training. 

The Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus vocational training includes coding, barber and cosmetology, music and video production. Rapper and Detroit native, Big Sean donated $100,000 through his nonprofit Sean Anderson Foundation to fund the production studio. 

“I think it can save somebody’s life, if they have somewhere to go. I think it can change somebody’s life,” Big Sean said to the Detroit Free Press. “It can be the start of million-dollar companies. … It all starts here. I think there are going to be a lot more millionaires and billionaires from Detroit, and I think the Boys & Girls Club is going to have something to do with that.”

BGCSM has also partnered with The Detroit Red Wings and Comcast for financing.