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Campbell finds passion in helping youth

By Bryan Richardson

A local youth leader uses her own experiences as a young person to help guide Manhattan’s future.

Junnae Campbell, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan, leads an organization that serves around 690 kids daily and about 2,000 yearly at the club’s nine sites.

The club, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, increased its average daily attendance by 30 percent from 2011 to 2012.

“Which just shows the need in the community for something positive and productive for kids to do after school,” Campbell said.

Campbell spoke about the importance of youth development.

“Most of you are developed before you get to a real job,” she said. “You spend a lot of time over the years with things getting instilled in you.”

Campbell linked her current status to things she picked up from her family.

“My dad was always honest about how you have to have integrity and work ethic to get somewhere in life,” she said. “My mom was a very passionate person. You take those three things, and that’s probably why I’m here.”

Campbell grew up in Ashland, with a population of just 867.

The town didn’t have an after-school program, but Campbell didn’t necessarily need it as a farm girl.

“As siblings, we all had to help out with dad on the farm,” she said.

Campbell’s high school graduating class had 19 students, 6 of them girls.

This allowed her the opportunity to participate in many activities: cross country, track, basketball, football manager, choir, student council and National Honor Society.

“You just kept yourself busy because it was an expectation,” she said.

Campbell used the work ethic required early in life as she paid her way through college at K-State.

Campbell began her after-school program work at Ogden Elementary in 1998 when she started as an accounting major.

“As soon as I left when I was 18, I was on my own,” she said. “I put my whole self into working after school programs because I needed to make ends meet to become a college student.”

She said she decided to change her major to focus on education after her first year of working at Ogden.

“I realized by doing my job every day after school that I wanted to be doing something bigger and greater,” she said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable of being an accountant. You start figuring out what’s your passion.”

Campbell said she realized that kids needed her.

“I care about kids,” she said. “The reason I chose to go to after-school programming versus going to the classroom was because I could impact more kids.”

Campbell said being home alone when she was growing up would involve playing outside, but there are internet dangers to contend with now.

“Kids have so many technology resources that if they go home after school, they’re getting into trouble,” she said.

Campbell leads the club, but she said she isn’t above cleaning floors when necessary.

She said her title doesn’t matter much, since there’s only five full-time staff compared to the hundreds of part-time employees and volunteers working with the kids.

“Pretty much everybody does everything here,” Campbell said. “We’re a team, and we work together to ensure the success of every kid we serve.”

After a busy day at work, Campbell goes home to a full household.

She is married with four children below the age of 6.

“I have a pretty busy lifestyle outside of the club,” she said.

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