“Some of these kids are raised by moms in single-parent homes,” the Boys Club unit director notes. “I guess I’ve become a male role model in their lives.”
Amundson has been playing that role for more than 18 years.
Growing up in a military family, Amundson knew he didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his dad, a two star U.S. Army General.
“My dad (Gen. Gerald “Bud” Amundson) said he always wanted me to follow my passion,” he remembers. “My passion, as it turned out wasn’t in the military.”
Instead, Amundson discovered his passion in education.
“Like a lot of young people, I was convinced I was going to change the world,” he recalls. “I assumed teaching would be the key.”
Graduating from the University of South Dakota with degrees in history education and parks and recreation administration in 1994, Amundson accepted a coaching position at the Boys Club.
Working with the center’s after-school program, he began commuting between the Boys Club’s 823 Pearl St. campus and the Vermillion, S.D., home he shared with wife Jill, a special needs teacher, and their two daughters.
Amundson quickly established bonds with many of the young members.
“The kids are terrific,” he says of the boys ranging in age from 7 – 18. “They come from all walks of life and they are all very special.”
As a coach, Amundson taught the boys sportsmanship. Off the court, he instructed them to be good citizens.
The motto of the Boys Club is “Great Futures Start Here,” a sentiment that Amundson takes to heart.
“You never really know about the home life of these kids,” he says. “That’s why I’ve always made myself available to them.”
Amundson says many former members have invited him to high school and college graduation.
A few have even enrolled their own children to become Boys Club members.
“Now, that’s a scary thing,” Amundson says with a laugh. “I’ve been doing this long enough, I’m starting to see a second generation of kids.”
Still, he has no regrets.
“I have the best job in the word,” Amundson says. “No day is ever the same and no kid is ever the same. This is very cool.”
As the sounds of kids laughing and having fun ring through the building, Amundson retreats to his office.
“When I was younger, I wanted to change the world,” he says. “Instead, working for the Boys Club has changed me for the better.”
“I’m more compassionate and understanding because of these kids,” Amundson adds. “I’d like to think I’ve left an impact on the lives of some of these kids but they’ve also left their impact on me.”