Renata Fossen Brown named to Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland leadership position

Renata Fossen Brown, who has more than 20 years of experience overseeing environmental education initiatives, has been named to the newly created position of director of program operations at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

Brown comes to BGCC from the Cleveland Botanical Garden, where she most recently served as vice president of education. Before that, she was associate curator of education at the Toledo Zoo.

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, she is responsible for coordinating all programs and managing the program staff. BGCC, which serves 8,000 youth each year at 15 sites, offers a wide variety of activities, including athletics, agriculture, music, art, graphic design and academic help.

Clubs provide safe, fun places for kids, with programs designed to help them reach their full potential.

“Our mission is fantastic – anything we can do to improve things for Cleveland’s kids is incredibly important work,” Brown said. “I’m madly in love with Cleveland and want to make it an even better place.”

Brown, who grew up in Brunswick and graduated from Brunswick High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Toledo and a master’s degree in biology curriculum and instruction from Bradley University. In 2014, she wrote a book, “Gardening Lab for Kids,” that has sold more than 10,000 copies and been translated into French, German and Chinese.

Brown is also active on the board of Fostering Hope, a service provider for kids in foster care. The organization’s mission is to enrich the lives of children living in foster care and residential treatment by providing unique experiences and giving the community opportunities to profoundly impact a child’s life.

She said her approach to programming at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland will be different than it was at her previous jobs. “It’s almost like flipping the paradigm – in the past, it was always education first, then we’d find a way to make it fun.  Here, the fun comes first, which is fantastic,” Brown said.

Brown, who is certified to teach grades 7-12, will be responsible for developing BGCC’s burgeoning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and workforce development programs. She will also be “re-calibrating” the entrepreneurial farm program, which she helped establish while working at the Botanical Garden.  Brown will also oversee other programs that have leaders in place, including music, art and athletics.

“Everyone here is so enthusiastic, and we will continue to raise the bar,” she said.

Brown, her husband Dave – a photographer who she met while both were doing wild dog research in Yellowstone National Park in 1998 – and their four dogs live in Cleveland Heights.

Founded in 1954, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland serves youth in Cleveland’s inner-city neighborhoods, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland and Garfield Heights. The Clubs provide a safe place for children to learn and grow, to develop ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, to engage in life-enhancing programs and to create a culture of hope and opportunity.

BGCC’s mission is to inspire and enable young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.