It’s only been about two months, but Angelique Harris can already see great things happening in the future for Conyers’ A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys & Girls Club (BBGC) located at 1015 O'Kelly Street.
DeKalb County resident Harris, 47, was hired as the executive director of the Barksdale Boys & Girls Club Jan. 14. She replaces Terrance Artis, who was let go by the BBGC in August as the full-time director of the club.
“I stay pretty busy,” said Harris. “I’m learning a lot. There’s a lot to learn, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
This is Harris first time taking the reins of an organization to lead it; however, her work with children is extensive. Prior to working with BBGC, Harris worked for the YMCA in Decatur, Georgia to help develop programs for children and worked as pre-kindergarten teacher.
“Probably since I was 18 (years old), I’ve been involved with childcare in some aspect,” she said. “This is pretty much what I’ve been doing in some shape form or fashion since I graduated from high school.”
Harris holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Brenau University and received her master’s degree in early childhood education from Grand Canyon University.
With that work experience, Harris hopes to breathe new life in to the BAGC.
“I was selected to lead this particular club. I’m excited about it,” she said. “I see a lot of good things for the future of Barksdale and I’m excited about that.”
Her number one goal is to increase the amount and variety of programs the BBGC can offer to the almost 200 children who attend daily. Opening the children up to the new experiences is extremely important, says Harris, because it allows kids to think about possibilities.
Since she took over, the BAGC began holding an assembly every Friday where different groups of kids can put on shows using different forms of expression for the other kids.
“If someone is in the arts, they may showcase their artwork, and that’ll give students, who maybe normally don’t want to do art or have an interest in that, it may peak their interest,” said Harris. “Just to get kids to open up their eyes to things that they may not have known about, been exposed to or want to do. I think it’s fantastic that many see their peers and peak their interest.”
Another goal for Harris is to increase student membership and volunteers. Adding new and exciting programs can go a long way to helping that effort. Also, she’s been out-and-about in the community talking and meeting with different civic organizations, businesses and Rockdale County Public Schools officials to get a wide range of community involvement.
She does have an idea of what kids want and need at the BAGC. Harris was a club member as a child, although she was a part of the girls club before it merged with the boys club and become what is now known as the Samuel L. Jones Boys & Girls Club, 450 East Lake Drive, Decatur, Georgia.
Her two kids, a son and a daughter ages 14 and 12, are also members of the Jones Boys & Girls Club.
“I’ve come full circle,” she said with a laugh.
And Harris doesn’t plan on leaving the BAGC anytime soon. She said she could see herself being rooted in her position for at least the next decade, but in order to accomplish such a lofty goal, Harris needs to be able to communicate and listen effectively.
“I think it’s important to be in touch with what the community wants, be in touch with what your members want and the parents what,” she said. “I think that’s very important and that helps you with longevity. You have to be able to evolve and change with the changing times and I think that’s very important.”