In the fall of their senior year, teenagers are abuzz with confidence and excitement. But as graduation approaches, the question of “what’s next?” starts feeling a little more intimidating.

That’s where Boys & Girls Club of Vernon’s annual “Adulting Day” comes in.

Perfect World Level Up logo

“It is not like you graduate and suddenly become an adult,” says Morgan Lindsey, Operations Director of the Vernon, Texas-based Club.

Adulting Day ushers in the latest class of high school seniors each year with a host of local companies providing speakers and sessions to teach “life hacks for ‘almost’ grownups.”

Financial planning. How to have a healthy relationship and identify a toxic one. How to dress for an interview. Studying tips to take to college. Under-the-radar job opportunities to consider. Mental health tips for teens, including how to practice self-care.

These are just some of the offerings teens can rack up on their “Adulting Day” bingo card to be entered into a raffle to win scholarships and more. “We tell kids that we’re here to help and save them some time, because we’ve all learned the hard way,” says Morgan.

As the event has grown and evolved, so has the content of its learning sessions. “Instead of saying, ‘This is Adulting Day, you’re going to learn how to do taxes,’ it’s more so, ‘hey, you might need some help with your relationships or your mental health,’” says Morgan. “We’ve made it more about holistic care versus a getting a task done.”

Getting Teens in the Door When They’re One Foot Out of School

So, how do you get teens (let alone high school seniors antsy to graduate) to show up and participate in one more learning event?

Adulting Day Expo

You get the biggest high school in town to participate and bus them over as a weekday field trip. Planning starts early, ensuring there are no overlapping conflicts with school schedules. Adulting Day is also built into the school week to ensure the greatest possible attendance, versus expecting seniors to show up on a Saturday.

The bingo-style agenda also promotes participation. To complete their bingo card, teens must attend four sessions of their choice, then head to the college and career expo which features community partners and local employers, local college reps and more. A completed bingo card is entered in the raffle to win a scholarship from the local Vernon College, cash, gift certificates, etc.

Even with all these incentives, seniors aren’t always the most enthusiastic at the start of Adulting Day. Morgan says the Boys & Girls Club staff knows this and addresses it upfront: “We say, ‘You might not want to be here. That’s fine — you don’t have to come in here and become an adult overnight. We just want you to try to take one thing away with you. One thing. That’s it.’”

A keynote speaker opens the day with an impact story of a decision that changed the course of their life. They’ve featured a former student from the area who shared his experience choosing to drive drunk and ending up paralyzed. Another speaker shared how he found smoke alarms annoying and removed them from his apartment, only to deal with the consequences when the building did in fact burn down. “We want to give them motivation to think twice about their choices,” says Morgan. “Because this is actually what can happen.”

Adulting Day Road Rules

Take One Thing with You

After the keynote, it’s time for the seniors to choose their first learning session. Morgan says, “The first session, they’re always kind of like milling around. By the second session, they’re zooming.”

Topically, mental health and building healthy relationships have resonated most deeply with their Gen Z student attendees. “We’ve had teens come up afterwards and say, ‘I didn’t realize I was in an emotionally abusive relationship’ or ‘I didn’t realize my mother was in an abusive relationship,’” says Morgan. “This is how you break generational curses.”

The Boys & Girls Club has seen shy or resistant teens show up to the expo and slowly begin shaking hands, introducing themselves, and networking with speakers and community partners. Students who felt college was too out of reach meet with college student aid counselors and leave with an application and a sense of possibility.

Brooke M.

20-year-old Club alum and current college student Brooke M. attended Adulting Day as a senior and then worked the event as part of the Club’s summer staff in years following. “These skills are important because some of them are not taught at school. Skills like talking to people in a career that we are interested in, changing a tire — things that people just ‘assume’ you know how to do,” she says. “Teens today are interested in learning how to be successful and provide for themselves.”

Ericka R.

Erika R., age 18, was a Club member for seven years before being hired as a staff member. “My Boys & Girls Club helped me build confidence, responsibility and the best version of myself,” she says. “It taught me how to be a leader and, most importantly, guide the upcoming generation.”

Not Your Grandpa’s Club (Anymore)

“In Vernon, Texas, your grandpa probably went to the Boys & Girls Club,” Morgan says.

The Vernon Club is over 60 years old and is, in many ways, the beating heart of the community. Much of the community faces financial challenges and food insecurity. “We partner closely with places that we’re connected to. In addition to serving meals to the kids we serve, we partner with churches and have four different summer meal sites for the community. During the summer, we provide 1,200 meals a day.”

During the school year, the Club buses in kids from all over rural North Texas, serves tiny outlier schools, and opens all-day on Fridays to meet the needs of schools with flex schedules. “Even if you don’t come to the Club after school, you’re going to be involved in one way or another,” says Morgan. “We’re the only youth sports league in town We have soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball.”

When your grandpa went to the Boys & Girls Club, it probably didn’t look like this. The Vernon Clubhouse occupies an entire square block of town, featuring two full-size gyms, a STEM lab, 3-D printing lab, music studio, games room and more.

Adulting Day Group of Teens

Kids Are the Future Workforce

Filling the gap between home and school is a job the Vernon Club takes seriously, especially because they know that the youth they’re serving are the future workforce and leaders of their town.

“Yes, we keep them safe right now,” says Morgan, “But how do we make them productive later? How do we send them out into the real world to be kind, productive, responsible individuals? We take that to heart in our town. Not many people leave Vernon. This is our community and our workforce forever.”

In addition to Adulting Day and other life and workforce readiness programs and partnerships, the Club aims to provide first job experiences to high school graduates. They teach young people how to act in a working environment and stand by successful individuals as a reference as they take their next step.

When asked what’s one life hack she wishes she’d learned earlier, Morgan said, “Everybody’s got imposter syndrome. Especially the people in their midlife, I feel like we’re the best at hiding the fact that we’re still kids. Everybody’s faking it till they make it, so I’d tell myself to let that bring you a little peace and then put your best foot forward. You’ll make it through.”

What today’s young people call “adulting,” Boys & Girls Clubs call life and workforce readiness. Boys & Girls Clubs are kids’ first network — the place where they meet mentors, hone their skills, ignite their interests and connect to opportunities.

Great Futures Start Here

Boys & Girls Clubs of America supports young people and communities year-round through safe and inclusive places, caring mentors and life-enhancing programs. Boys & Girls Clubs empower teens to graduate on time with a plan for the future. Join us in supporting the next generation of leaders.