New Boys & Girls Club director wants more for local kids

Shelley Puariea, the new executive director of the Federal Way Boys & Girls Club, is direct and has a take-charge attitude. Being born and raised in Chicago, she says, has that effect on one’s sensibilities.

Those sensibilities will come in handy for the Boys & Girls Club, which has been without a director for seven months.

Puariea, who was welcomed to the community at a reception at the Federal Way Best Western Executel Wednesday, is a 20-year veteran of the Boys & Girls Clubs of King and Snohomish counties. She was most recently the executive director of the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club, which has 4,000 members.

“We’re really excited,” said Debra Coates, a long-time Boys & Girls Club board member. “She’s got a different, very innovative style. It was a long time in the search but Shelley is a terrific choice.”

Puariea has a master’s degree in education from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and was the school’s first woman athletic director.

Puariea’s background in program direction, which she said she honed early on at the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club, has helped her focus on what has made the clubs most successful and has set them apart from other youth programs.

The programs, which include computer classes, homework assistance and even cooking classes, are not just babysitting, she said.

“The time counselors spend with each child is time for them to learn for a real role model,” she said. “We developed our programs on that basis.”

Lynn Templeton, former executive director of the Federal Way club and currently the director of the Whatcom County Boys & Girls Club, said he has known Puariea for 20 years.

“She has a very good reputation, is dedicated to the kids, and is an exceptionally hard worker,” he said.

He added that her major challenges would be regenerating the 45-member board of directors, fund-raising, building community relationships, focusing on the current programs and expanding them.

“The executive director is key to the success of the club,” Templeton said. “Working with the children, parents, the community, the government, the big players in Federal Way — it’s all crucial.”

Puariea agreed, and added she would also focus on some areas with the programs offered, to address specific needs.

“Kids are coming to these clubs for more than two hours a day,” she said. “There has to be more going on there for them to hang out.”

To that end, Puariea developed programs at the Alderwood club that engaged kids with counselors who had developed lesson plans that included learning about salmon hatcheries, healthy cooking, whatever was interesting and educational to the children and teen-agers the club served.

Puariea has toured the South Auburn Boys & Girls extension club, which is located in a King County housing authority. The community is made up of Eastern European, African American and East African families, which, admittedly presents some language and cultural challenges, she said. Yet the kids she met were polite, well-spoken and seemed invested in their club.

“They have a sense of belonging; it’s a place they can call their own,” she said. “It takes the place of a neighborhood and is one way for kids to get to know each other.”

Puariea said she would make one thing a special goal at Federal Way.

“I’ll be hands-on with what’s happening with the kids in the clubs,” she said. “But I want to focus on more than that. I want to make sure these kids have goals and visions; that they finish high school and even go on to college.”

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