STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — When Crystal Hilburn decided she needed a career change, the nine-year unit director of Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes-Marble Falls had one concern.
Would that person have the same commitment to the facility and the children it serves as she did?
After working with Victoria Rucker, who was hired a couple of weeks ago, Hilburn can leave knowing the club and its members are in great hands.
“I’m not worried at all,” Hilburn said.
Rucker served as the Burnet Teen Center director since it opened Jan. 4, but when she heard Hilburn was leaving, Rucker, who had been an employee of the Marble Falls unit and for the Head Start early childhood program, applied for the position.
“I was very happy at the teen center,” she said, “but I needed a full-time position, and I wanted to serve more kids. Marble Falls draws 200 kids in the summer. It gives me an opportunity to serve more kids.”
Dominque Wallace, daughter of Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes-Burnet unit director Virginia Wallace, is the new Burnet Teen Center director.
She and Hilburn have been working side by side for the past several weeks and will continue to do so until Hilburn officially leaves in early June.
“Crystal is very organized,” Rucker said. “She’s helping me so much with the transition. She’s teaching me all the information. She is a great wealth of knowledge. She’s helping me get ready for summer to make the transition smooth.”
One of the first tasks is organizing the Legos robotic summer program, which begins once the school year ends.
Children will use software to create robots then grab Legos to bring the software images to life.
“The robots will move and do what (the designers) want,” Rucker said.
Meanwhile, Rucker also has several programs in mind for the children of the Marble Falls unit.
First, she wants to utilize the facility’s gym, which has a full-sized basketball court, to its fullest by starting sports programs such as camps and leagues for basketball this summer and a volleyball league and perhaps a flag football league in August and September.
“It’s a nice gym that’s not being used to its fullest,” she said. “Everybody gets a chance to play, and they’re exposed to different sports.”
Rucker plans to talk to area business owners about donating to the facility to help offset costs for equipment and uniforms.
“There are people who are passionate about sports and who help cover the costs for that team, for referees,” she said. “Parents will pay $10 to keep it low, to get more kids involved. This community is so generous.”
Second, she aims to expand the academic programs that are already in place such as the Matholympics, which teaches the basic elements of math, including multiplication tables, and Power Hour, which is a tutoring program. Boys & Girls Club members also will participate in the summer reading program at the Marble Falls Public Library.
Third, she hopes to implement a program similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters in which Boys & Girls Club members are paired with high school students in Marble Falls.
Finally, Rucker plans more research for grants to help pay for projects such as cooking and dance classes, which are in the works for the summer, and other possibilities that help children learn skills long after they’ve left the club.
Rucker also has several field trips lined up, including to SeaWorld, Hawaiian Falls, and Schlitterbahn.
Many of Rucker’s ideas have come from her time in South Texas when she was a Boys & Girls Club kid herself. She saw firsthand how the community rallied around the club.
“I learned to work with what I have, to make it enjoyable and fun,” she said. “I’m blessed with the opportunity to serve my community as much as I can.”
Rucker said she is enjoying being in the Marble Falls unit, noting she is getting to know children and their parents and the existing staff, which works well together.
“It’s my passion to work with kids. It’s what I was meant to do, to be that role model they need, to provide structure and academics, everything the Boys & Girls Club provides,” she said. “I’m blessed with this job for sure,” she said. “It’s something I want to do. It’s something I’ve waited for for a long time.”