The main thing I want people to know is not to feel sorry for me. When someone knows my story and knows that I lost my parents, I don’t want them to pity me. I don’t want my story to be about that. I have been through a lot, and I feel like God put me through it for a reason. I am not defined by my adversities but, instead, am defined by the lessons that my adversities have taught me. I want to be able to inspire others through my accomplishments.
To some people, the Boys and Girls Club is just a place to hang out after school and on breaks, but for me the Club is much more than that. I have grown up in the Boys and Girls Club. I created an entire network of friends at the Club and an even larger network of volunteer opportunities for eleven years. The Boys and Girls Club provided me with a place to go and people to talk to when I needed help. My entire life has been filled with struggles and hardships. As a child, I lost a number of important people, and I felt like I had no place to turn, but the Boys and Girls Club provided me with that place.
I’ve always been able to go to the Boys and Girls Club when I wanted to get away from my problems at home. The staff members at the Club always provided me with the best advice and support. They’ve always told me to do what I feel is right and what is best for me. I am thankful for the Boys and Girls Club because it has provided me with vital resources that I will need to be successful in life. Those resources are some of the more simple things that sometimes I didn’t feel like I was receiving at home.
It takes a village to raise a child, and all of the staff members at the Boys and Girls Club were my village. Even if they were just in my life for a short season, I am grateful that they were there. After my parents died, I stopped going to the Club for a while, but I got completely back into it within two years. More than anything, the Club is a place of opportunity and education. It is where I learned to be a leader, and it was a safe place for me to go. I basically have always gone there. I always had family members who worked there or cousins who were members.
I started showing up when I was three, and by the time I became a member at six, everyone knew me. I was that girl who was always upfront for talking too much. I’ve been going to the Club longer than most of the staff. You always remember the people you meet there, and you form some really strong bonds. You’ll see them out in public, someone you met in yellow, orange, or green cards, and you will have a memory or joke that you share. All of my siblings were older than me, and being at the Club gave me somewhere to go and people to play with. I don’t say any of this to keep a title or anything; it doesn’t matter that I am the Youth of the Year. I tell about the Club because I think it is important. That’s why I work here now, and that’s why I’ll still volunteer when I move away for college. The Club helped mold me, and I am blessed to continue to watch it mold others.
Working at the Club instead of being a member has been different. I feel like I get where the kids are coming from because I was just like them once. I have gone through the same things they are going through. I don’t like having to yell at them. Summer camp days are long, and no day is quite the same. But, I love it! I love being able to help them with their homework because I know that the things I learned can be applied, and that is crazy to me. I love that I can use what I have learned to help them. It also makes me realize that even though it may not seem like I have a lot, I am lucky in what I do have. Some of these kids have so little, but they are still so happy and thankful for everything. They are so grateful that I am here. I have formed really strong bonds with a lot of them. I have developed a strong bond with one girl. She is always so happy, and it makes me happy to be around her.
My mom once told me that as long as you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. I love working at the Boys and Girls Club because I love kids. I love making a difference in their lives just like so many staff made in mine. I am ready to start the next chapter of my life. I am excited about attending Auburn University in the fall. I was at Auburn some this summer participating in a bridge program for new minority students who will study math or sciences. I want to major in Bio-Chemistry and research cancer one day. I can already tell college life will be hard. At Auburn, it was twelve hour days, and I have never been so tired in my life. Auburn has always been my dream school. I spent my entire senior year filling out scholarship applications so I could afford it, and it finally paid off.
Right now, my best friend and I are working on starting a scholarship for students who have lost a parent or are adopted. It is important to me that I can give back. Finding money for college can be difficult, and if I can help lessen that burden for someone that would be amazing. To me, it is all about passing on the gifts that I’ve been blessed with and giving back what the Boys and Girls Club gave to me.
-As told to Krista Maeira Parker, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.