What we do

What we do:

Three key program areas

What we do every day helps improve the lives of children. All Club activities support youth development in at least one of three key program areas:

  • Academic success to help youth achieve academic goals, stay in school, explore career interests, learn new skills and consider post-secondary education options. Sample programs.
  • Healthy lifestyles to help youth engage in positive behaviors that nurture well-being, set personal goals and grow into self-sufficient adults, including daily physical activity, healthy food choices and an appreciation for the outdoors. Sample programs.
  • Good Character and Citizenship to empower youth to become engaged in the Club and the community, sustain meaningful relationships, respect one another and participate in the democratic process. Sample programs.

Academic success

  • Project Learn, grades 1-12, this holistic strategy in intended to complement and reinforce what Club members learn during the school day, while creating experiences that invite them to fall in love with learning. Strategies include experiential learning, so that youth learn actively, through a “hands-on and mind-on” approach with tutoring and homework help.
  • Bemidji Area Reading Canines, grades 1-5, read aloud to a specially trained dog to help Club members build confidence in their reading skills.
  • Career Launch, grades 6-12, provides fun and interactive activities to explore a broad range of career areas, identify the skills and education needed for their particular career path.
  • Digital Literacy Essentials, grades 1-12, provides Club members engaging and exciting experiences for all ability levels with a foundation of technology skills that explore digital safety, privacy, online communication, and digital presence.
  • DIY STEM, grades 1-12, an activity-based program that helps Club members make connections between scientific principles and real-world application. To promote interest of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math related learning opportunities.
  • Money Matters, grades 1-12, builds basic personal money management skills that can lead them to workplace readiness, lifelong financial stability and overall success.
  • National Fine Arts, grades 1-12, provides Club members the opportunity to express themselves creatively, build confidence, learn new skills in the visual arts and showcase their artwork in nine different art mediums and techniques.
  • Ultimate Journey, grades 4-5, engages Club members in fun, experiential, environmental education activities. Cultivating an awareness and appreciation of natural wonders that surround youth.

Healthy lifestyles

  • Triple Play, grades 1-12, promotes a healthy mind, body and soul.
    • “Mind” – Healthy Habits, this targeted program is made up of interactive practical activities that develop a Club members ability, confidence and motivation to eat healthy for life.
    • “Body” – Daily Challenges, promotes becoming more physically active through a variety of games, cooperative activities, and sports that develop a young person’s ability, confidence and motivation to be physically fit.
    • “Soul” – Social Recreation, builds the skills Club members need to make healthy choices through cooperative, group-based activities that develop a young person’s confidence in themselves and connection to others.
  • Garden Program, grades 1-12, on-site high tunnel and raised beds engages youth in gardening, including planting, tending and harvesting. Educating Club members by learning how to prepare, cook and incorporate produce into healthy meals and snacks. Members develop entrepreneurial skills by selling fresh produce with on-site farmers markets, to area businesses and the Bemidji School District.
  • Laketrails Canoe Trip, grades 6-12, introduces up to 15 teen Club members to the wilderness with an eight-day canoeing adventure on Lake of the Woods in partnership with Laketrails Base Camp. During this process, Club members grow in understanding and appreciation of their own abilities, and learn how to work well with others to accomplish a common goal.
  • Elks Youth Camp, grades 4-5, through a partnership with our local Bemidji Elks Lodge, Club members are provided with a week-long camping trip to enhance their love of the outdoors.
  • SMART Moves, grades 1-12, Skills Mastery And Resilience Training, focused on building Club members attitudes and social-emotional skills to support healthy decision-making.
  • Be a STAR, grades 4-5, a bully prevention program focused on social and emotional learning by giving youth the tools they need to drive effective learning, decision making, creativity, relationships, and mental health.
  • KidSmartz, grades 1-5, a child safety program engaging in various age-appropriate activities to educate youth and families about preventing abduction, body safety, and empowering youth.

Good character and citizenship

  • Youth of the Year, grades 8-12, to recognize a teen Club member who exemplifies excellence in service to the Club, commitment to community and family, academic success, strong moral character, life goals and public speaking.
  • Youth for Unity, grades 1-12, promotes and celebrates diversity while combating prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. Youth of all ages learn to appreciate themselves as unique and special individuals, understand diversity in society, recognize bias and unfairness and take personal leadership confronting bias.
  • Million Members, Million Hours of Service, grades 1-12, provides opportunities for members to contribute to their community in meaningful ways to build character and strengthen leadership skills.
  • Junior Staff, grades 6-12, teens will develop interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic and a sense of community engagement while experiencing on-the-job Club work.

Youth of the Year


Every year, we recognize one outstanding teen Club member as our local Youth of the Year. Recipients are selected based on six criteria:

  • service to the Club;
  • commitment to community and family;
  • academic success;
  • strong moral character;
  • life goals;
  • public speaking

For more than 70 years, the Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated the nation’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year America’s premier leadership and recognition program for teens.

Our local winner receives a $1,000 scholarship and then competes in St. Paul with other candidates throughout the state. The competition includes a three-minute presentation followed by one-on-one interviews with local and state judges. The state winner receives a $5,000-$15,000 scholarship and the opportunity to compete for the Midwest Region Youth of the Year. Five winners each receive a $20,000 scholarship and advance to the national level in Washington, D.C.

The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 in scholarships and is installed by the President of the United States.

Past winners:

2021 – Owen Stapleton
2020 – Olivia Stapleton
2019 – Rhea Holleman
2018 — Allie Anderly (Shimkus), Minnesota State Youth of the Year
2017 – Rhea Holleman
2016 – Nathaniel Esley McDonald
2015 – Felicity Boney
2014 – Michael Horton
2013 – Darrin Hill
2012 – Aaron Hulsebus
2011 – Summer Johnson
2010 – Ivan Smith

Who we are

Learn more about what we do, our mission, history and membership profile at Who we are. Then meet our staff and board.

Thank you to these granters who help make these programs possible.