Season for Sharing: The Hub at George Washington gives high schoolers a safe space to grow

Brandon Buckley (left), coordinator of The HUB, speaks with George Washington High School students Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, while they enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The meal, dubbed Hubsgiving, is an experience offered to students who participate in the school club that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.
Brandon Buckley (left), coordinator of The HUB, speaks with George Washington High School students Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, while they enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The meal, dubbed Hubsgiving, is an experience offered to students who participate in the school club that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.

Corrections & clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when The Hub was created and who it was founded by. It was created in 2009 by a group of students with guidance from various mentors.

Students at George Washington High School gathered for their own “Friendsgiving” celebration the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and while enjoying a hot meal, shared what they were thankful for.

Some said they were thankful for just being able to wake up that morning, others thanked some administrators that helped them on their journey and others were thankful for the opportunities that a club like "The Hub" has given them.

The Hub at George Washington High School is an enrichment after-school program that aims to provide fun and fulfilling activities for high schoolers on the near-westside of Indianapolis.

The Hub was started in 2009 by a group of students with guidance from various mentors with the goal of creating a safe gathering place for high schoolers to have fun but to also provide programming to help them think about their future goals. Brandon Buckley then took over leadership of the group in 2012 and has been with the club ever since.

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Tasia Caneler has been with the club since she was a freshman and is now a senior at George Washington High School. She said her older sister encouraged her to join the club and has made a lot of connections through it.

“Being with the upperclassman my freshman year made me a bit more mature,” Caneler said. “It’s helped me meet new people and create new bonds.”

Caneler is hoping to get into Tennessee State University and is looking into majoring in psychology.

A Thanksgiving meal is served Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to George Washington High School students and guests who participate in The HUB is an after school program sponsored that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.
A Thanksgiving meal is served Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to George Washington High School students and guests who participate in The HUB is an after school program sponsored that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.

Buckley said that he had never seriously considered being a teacher when he was in college, but once he saw how successful he was at interacting with the youth in his community and seeing how the kids looked up to him, he discovered what he was good at.

“Now it’s a passion for me,” Buckley said. “I love what I do and I love to see even some of the kids that are in the worse situations and come into my program and by the end of it come out strong and have opportunities for jobs or are even considering going to college.”

A former student and The HUB club member films Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, as Brandon Buckley, coordinator of The HUB, shares what he's thankful for.
A former student and The HUB club member films Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, as Brandon Buckley, coordinator of The HUB, shares what he's thankful for.

Buckley also wears many hats, other than being the founder and director of The Hub. He currently runs his own talent agency, has been a brand ambassador and is a popular personality on TikTok. He said all his entrepreneurial work has helped him create connections in the community which has led to creating fun opportunities for the students.

Some programs the club has done include lessons on personal finance, mental health and recently an actor came in to do acting exercises with the students, but Buckley said he tries to provide the kinds of activities that the students want to do.

“I give the kids the lead because this is for them,” Buckley said.

The club mostly runs on funding secured through various grants or donations and just received a $35,000 grant from the Indianapolis Foundation, a member of the Central Indiana Community Foundation. But Buckley says it’s been a challenge to get people interested in funding programs for teenagers compared to younger, elementary-aged student programs.

A Thanksgiving meal is served Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to George Washington High School students and guests who participate in The HUB is an after school program sponsored that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.
A Thanksgiving meal is served Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to George Washington High School students and guests who participate in The HUB is an after school program sponsored that offers positive activities often about creating community and keeping kids engaged.

“I tell people all the time, don’t forget about the high school students, because those students need that support,” Buckley said. “They need that mental health support, and they need people to talk to and see that people show up for them.”

It was evident at the club’s Friendsgiving party that Buckley has continued to show up for his students and several former students of The Hub shared how he had influenced their lives.

“I’m 22 years old and I still get on his nerves,” Cynda Chandler, a former student at George Washington High School said. “But I know I can come to him for anything I need and I’ll always be able to get help for whatever I need.”

What is your organization's mission?

The Hub’s main mission is to provide academic assistance, community involvement opportunities and enriching activities in a fun, safe environment for high school-aged students in Indianapolis, Buckley said. The program is open to any student who wants to attend, but most come from the near-west side area of the city. Buckley said next year they will be starting a similar program at Warren Central High School, his alma mater, and hopes to reach more east-side students with that program.

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How many people do you serve?

Buckley said he is serving around 100 students between George Washington High School and through his work in reaching students in Warren Township.

What is your organization's No. 1 need?

Buckley said just getting the word out about the program and securing funding for future sustainability of The Hub is his number one need right now.

“I want to get to the point where I don't have to struggle to do a grant every year and it is something that I can have for maybe four or five years,” Buckley said. “Right now I’m just working to keep it going and just evolve with the ties in the community because these students are a lot different than some of my older students.”

To mood lighting, music and lights, students and other guests arrive Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to a Thanksgiving meal at George Washington High School on Indianapolis' west side.
To mood lighting, music and lights, students and other guests arrive Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, to a Thanksgiving meal at George Washington High School on Indianapolis' west side.

How can people get involved?

Buckley said those who want to get involved in helping can go to their website at thehubclubrocks.com or they can reach out to him by emailing him at bbuckley@thehubclubrocks.com.

IndyStar Season for Sharing

The shared mission of IndyStar’s Our Children initiative and annual Season for Sharing campaign is to harness the power of journalism to make a difference in the lives of Central Indiana youth. We invite you to join us by making a financial contribution. The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will match donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $25,000. All charitable donations are tax-deductible.

Funds raised during this year’s campaign will be distributed in early 2023 to organizations serving primarily Marion County youth and families. Go to indystar.com/ocdonate to give online.

If you prefer to send a check, please mail to: Central Indiana Community Foundation, Attn: Our Children, 615 N. Alabama St., Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46204. You also can donate by texting “SHARING” to 80888.

About The Hub

Address: George Washington High School, 2215 W. Washington St

Email: bbuckley@thehubclubrocks.com

Website: https://www.thehubclubrocks.com/

Contact IndyStar reporter Caroline Beck at 317-618-5807 or CBeck@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineB_Indy.

Caroline is also a Report for America corps member with the GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the U.S. and around the world.

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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: The Hub at George Washington gives high schoolers a chance for growth