CEO Mel Culpepper shares how being a young Club member impacted her life and why she’s passionate about empowering the next generation. Photo of Teva x Cotopaxi by Mat Kestle.
Mel Culpepper knows personally how young minds can flourish given the right opportunities and encouragement. Being a Boys & Girls Club graduate herself, the experience taught her that everybody has the power to make a meaningful impact.
“My first job was at a Club,” Mel shared. “Also, my grandfather worked as a Club professional for years, so you can say, ‘it’s in my blood.’ I learned the importance of responsibility and commitment very early in life through Club experiences.”
As the CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood—located in the epicenter of celebrity culture and entertainment industry—Mel’s successful leadership stems from her ability to see the potential of each individual that passes through the club’s programs. The organization embraces and encourages cultural diversity and attempts to create a model for a better, shared society.
The Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood currently serves predominantly underprivileged and low-income students (approximately 5-17 years old) in its local community. From indoor and outdoor physical activities to computer literacy, music lessons and fine arts programs, its after-school learning opportunities foster a love for learning and expression that stick with many of its members for the rest of their lives. Early in the collaboration process, the Cotopaxi Foundation and Teva identified B&GCH as a top-performing organization in the youth inclusivity space and were thrilled to learn more about its programs.
We caught up with Mel to hear about how the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood organizes fun local outdoor excursions and how they’re adapting programming during the pandemic to continually serve the community.
Tell us about yourself! Why do you love what you do?
MEL CULPEPPER: It is my honor to serve as the CEO for the past 13 years. I am passionate about education and ensuring that all kids, especially kids of color, have access to quality education and opportunities to build and develop the skills necessary for future success.
The Boys & Girls Club has chapters across the U.S. How is the community and culture of Hollywood unique?
MEL CULPEPPER: The Hollywood Club is located in the center of one of the most famous cities in the world; however, we serve some of the poorest families in Hollywood. The majority of our students are Latinx. Our focus is education and ensuring that our kids of color are not “left behind”.
Tell us about your fitness and wellness programs.
MEL CULPEPPER: Our facility houses a gym to provide our students access to sports, fitness and wellness programs. We encourage our students to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes indoor and outdoor activities. Each year, we participate in activities such as the annual beach trip and bike giveaway. The challenge for our community is the lack of green space within walking distance of most residences. For the majority of our students, the Club provides the only space for regular structured fitness and wellness activities.
How can your kids benefit from more outdoor experiences?
MEL CULPEPPER: I am excited to partner with Teva x Cotopaxi to enhance our fitness and wellness programming as well as our foundational offerings, such as a digital education. It is important for our students to have more opportunities to explore the great outdoors. There is so much to see, learn, and discover.
Tell us about your personal experience in the outdoors. How has the outdoors been there for you?
MEL CULPEPPER: I like to walk and hike. As a kid, I participated in summer camps and enjoyed being in nature. I will confess that I have a serious “bug phobia”—so, it can be challenging for me when I’m outdoors.
To celebrate the Teva x Cotopaxi collaboration, we’re supporting the Boys & Girls Club with a donation. How do donations empower your mission and work?
MEL CULPEPPER: Donations are the “backbone” of our organization. We could not do this work without the generous donations we receive every year. I am extremely grateful to everyone who gives to our organization and empowering us to have the resources necessary to help our most vulnerable kids.
Could you share with us how you see outdoor programs evolving post COVID and the challenges and opportunities for more outdoor activities?
MEL CULPEPPER: It is my hope to get our kids outdoors often given the need for more fresh air. The challenge will be transportation. We might consider “local walks” as an alternative to hikes, for example. We might also plan short bike rides with kids. Your donation could be used to support these efforts as it is related to staffing and supplies.
Shop the Teva x Cotopaxi collection at teva.com and your purchase will help support the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood!
Donate to Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood through the Cotopaxi foundation here!