Getting his “kid fix”

Mike Hackett is making a difference in the lives of Athens' children

Getting his “kid fix”

Mike Hackett works with (left to right) Ontario Wilson, Keymari Baughens and Zakiyaa Lunpkin.

Photo by: Robert Newcomb

There was a time when Mike Hackett (BSHE ’81) was rising through the executive ranks of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. As chief professional officer for the organization’s Jacksonville, Fla., location, he oversaw a $3-million budget for 14 different clubs. He wore a coat and tie each day to his downtown office building instead of heading out to the front lines.

“I was managing 300 employees, but I only knew maybe a dozen by name,” he recalls.

When the opportunity came in 2003 to head the Boys and Girls Club of Athens, which has a far smaller budget and only eight full-time employees, Hackett jumped at the chance. He has been in Athens ever since, overseeing three clubs in town plus several in Barrow and Elbert counties.

As a college student, Hackett started off as a general arts and sciences major and spent some time as a speech communication major. By the time he was a junior, Hackett was coordinating the Big Brother/Big Sister program for the university—arranging for his fellow students to mentor underprivileged children in Athens-Clarke County—which prompted him to transfer into child development.

Following graduation, Hackett worked as a counselor at a residential treatment center for adolescents.

“After three years in that field, it was apparent that it was a mismatch for me,” he says. “We were trying to repair kids after the damage was done rather than doing things when there are still other paths they can choose. I realized that I wanted to find something in the preventive field.”

When he arrived in Athens he was based at a club that didn’t have a swimming pool, was in dire need of upgrading and wasn’t located near the children who attended. Within a year, he was engrossed in the details of raising money for a new club. The final result is a $4.6-million building that features top-of-the-line equipment, the capability to reconfigure space on a moment’s notice, and a look designed to appeal to the children who attend the club daily.

He is also involved in the redevelopment of a second, smaller club in Athens that will occupy a building that once housed Athens’ African-American high school.

Although much of his focus is on the day-to-day operations of a million-dollar business, Hackett has not lost his passion for child development.

“I have to get my kid fix,” he says, smiling as he walks through the building. “If one of our counselors isn’t able to work, I’ll jump in and help the middle-schoolers during homework time. During the summer, I’ll take a couple of the kids to lunch just so I can listen to them. That’s one of the things we don’t do a good enough job of—talking to kids.”

—Denise Horton is the director of communications for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.