What My Club means to me!
At the age of fifteen, I was not doing the types of things “normal” teenagers do. The typical American teen is usually focused on getting ready for prom, hanging out with their friends, going to the movies, or sleeping over a friend’s house. But for me, it was different. At fifteen I had to take on the responsibility of taking care of my younger siblings while my mom went to work. Being a single mom, she works a lot, so caring for my siblings takes up most of my time. My mom works long and hard to put food on the table each night and provide us with what we need.
My father was never really in the picture. When he was around he used my mother as a punching bag and chose his love of drugs over his family. He gave up on life and us a long time ago. by the time I was seven, my mom had had enough and we took whatever we could fit in a duffel bag and loaded onto a Greyhound bus headed for New York. When we got there, the Domestic Shelter for Women and Children had a cab waiting for us to take us to a new place. I had an older brother who didn’t adjust well to the move and within two years, got himself locked up. At that point, I knew I would have to step up and take on a lot of the things that had been his responsibility. We were a close family and after all we had been through, I was determined not to let my mom feel like she was doing it alone.
Despite all the help we got, after eight years New York got too expensive and we found ourselves making our way back to Philadelphia. Now, not only was I basically a second parent, I had to uproot my life in the middle of high school. I hated the idea of leaving all my friends, the people with whom I had build close relationships with and had become a support system for me. Being a new girls in high school is not easy, it’s basically like starting over. This was a huge adjustment in life, but I am happy to say the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club helped me through it all.
Luckily, a staff member at my sibling’s school referred us to the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club and within days we were all members. Ronnie and Jannah (my siblings) easily started to make new friends, but for me it was hard. I was still dealing with leaving my friends and avoiding making new ones. The staff at the Club wasn’t going to have that though and they pushed me to take part in the many different teen programs. From SMART Girls to Power Circle to Keystone Club and Jr. Staff to Mr. Donald’s dance program, they were going to make sure I got involved.
The breakthrough for me came when I was offered an opportunity to be a part of the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club Jr. Staff program. Getting hired and becoming a junior staff member helped me with many things. The summer was a big turning point for me. It gave me a chance to get to know the same people I had been turning away from for so long. Every day at 12:30 pm my supervisor, Mr. Donald, would have all the Jr. Staff come together to do a workshop. I learned so many new things and started building better relationships with my fellow workers. Mr. Donald covered topics like how to save money for college, fill out college applications, and even how to build a resume. These daily meetings were one of the best parts of the day for me but the happiest moment of all came when I was able to show my leadership skills with the children. I would help give out snacks to the younger groups, play games, and even help them with arts and crafts. However, the fun did not stop in the summer and being a Jr. staff member was just the beginning for me.
When school started back in the fall, I was actually happy to come to the Club every day. I had finally started to build healthy relationships not only with the staff but with the other teens at the Club as well. When the teen programs started I decided to sign up to be a part of SMART Girls. At first, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do it because I would be the oldest girl in the group. But then I thought about it and realized that it would be a great way to further show my ability to be a leader. The program gave me a place to share my stories with other girls. It gave me a chance to form strong sister bonds with each one of them.
The Club has helped me in so many ways, including with my senior project for school. My topic was “How does the corruption in the prison system affect the African American Community?” Mr. Donald helped me make a ton of phone call, send emails, and fill out applications. Someone recommended trying local law firms and after calling in some favors, I was able to get a spot interning at a Law firm. From January to March, I went every day and kept journals, gave surveys, and interviewed people on my topic. I soaked in as much knowledge as I could. I am happy to say my project was a huge success.
For a young woman who never really had solid plans in life, I am happy to say that the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club has had a positive impact on me. Not only has it helped me to become a better leader and build strong, everlasting relationships with peers and adults,it has given me the chance to be something I haven’t been in awhile, a teenager! An average kid! Something besides the second parent in my family unit bogged down with adult responsibilities. I’ve gotten to hang out with friends and have good times all while doing things that have helped me achieve things I never thought possible, like receiving a large amount of scholarships that will help me pay for school. As I graduate from high school and prepare for College, which I have recently started, I am thankful to my mom, The Club, and Taco Bell, who supports Club teen programming. I also no have a belief I have in myself, and know I’ve managed to give myself an enormous amount of opportunities that I will not waste! Overall, I’ve had a wonderful Club experience and I would not change it for the world.