This post is part of a series featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. Learn more about the Youth of the Year Process HERE. Meet She'ana HERE, Amanda HERE, and Amere HERE.
DeSean Williams is a self-assured leader. Overcoming low self-esteem from bullying, he has already proven success and was named 2016 Youth of the Year.
As a young boy without a father, DeSean struggled to teach himself how to be a man. He has said “because I lacked inner confidence and strength, I struggled with who I really was and who ‘the streets’ wanted me to be. I contemplated joining a gang, which at the time I thought would provide that acceptance I desired.” Without a positive male role model, this inner turmoil was fueled by bullying and led DeSean to thoughts of suicide.
Luckily, DeSean found himself at the Crossroads Village Unit of Boys & Girls Clubs and found the support he so desperately needed. Staff member Cameron Bertrand had such a positive impact on DeSean that when he was assigned as Area Director of two new locations, DeSean switched Clubs to stay in daily contact with him.
DeSean has found his passion as the coach of the Pinedale Manor Mustangs cheerleading team. Other Club activities he participates in include Passport to Manhood and Keystone Club. He is also extremely proud to be a leader and role model as a Junior Staff member.
“Now, I can legitimately say, ‘I’m happy.’ I am my own person, and while I might not fit into other people’s boxes, my Club taught me to have confidence in myself and my importance,” said DeSean.
At school DeSean is a member of the Hurricane Cheerleading team, school chorus, and FBLA. His favorite subjects are Economics and Personal Finance. He is completing his senior year and currently has a 3.1 GPA.
DeSean plans to attend Norfolk State University and complete a degree in business. He hopes to return to BGCA after college to serve as a Unit Director and be the role model for youth that Mr. Cameron has been to him. His long-term career goal is to eventually serve as President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula.
Do you think DeSean will win a second year in a row to be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
You can meet the other candidates HERE.
This post is part of a series on our Youth of the Year Finalists. Learn more about our Youth of the Year process in our earlier post here, and meet our other Finalists Amere and Amanda.
Sheana Stroud is a humanitarian. In her home life, school life, and Club life, Sheana does her best to ensure the needs of others are met.
Sheana joined Boys & Girls Clubs 10 years ago at our Mathews Unit. She remembers walking in the first day and being surrounded with screams of excitement and joy and knowing then that she would love it.
Knowing how involved with the Club Sheana is, it is hard to believe she has not always been outgoing. She says she was very shy as a kid and didn’t like meeting new people. "The Club helped me socialize and be more comfortable speaking with people, which helped a lot when starting high school and tried out for the cheerleading team," said Sheana. Now in her senior year, Sheana is honored to be team captain!
In the future, Sheana hopes to work for Child Protection Services. She realized she has a love for working with children, and Boys & Girls Clubs has helped her discover her passion. “I started thinking about the kids who aren’t able to have the opportunity I had when I was a kid… I want to show those kids that good things do happen for good people. I want to be the person to help them with their financial issues or their household problems,” said Sheana.
As a Junior Staff member, Sheana already has opportunity to act as a mentor. She enjoys talking with the younger members and explaining the difference between good and bad behavior and how members can improve behavior.
Beyond the Club, Sheana partakes in numerous community service projects. She cleans local parks and beaches, participates in school service opportunities, and Adopt-a-Family. She particularly enjoys being able to help a family in need during the holidays.
It is clear that Sheana cares deeply about others and her community.
Do you think she will be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
This profile is part of a series featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. To learn more about our Youth of the Year Program and how we select a winner, you can visit our previous blog post.
Amanda is a fighter. Literally, as a certified Tae Kwon Do instructor, and figuratively, overcoming horrific childhood experiences.
From the early age of six-years-old, Amanda has overcome sexual assault, personal tragedies, and family conflicts. Through all of this, there has been one safe constant: her local Boys & Girls Club and the Unit Director who she loves like a father. “My Boys & Girls Club has taught me to keep my chin up and to carry my head high. My Club has helped me see my future and showed me how to help others,” Amanda said about the impact of the Club.
Far less significant experiences have hindered an individual’s success, but Amanda has overcome her tragedies and setbacks with a grace that his beyond her 17 years. Her Unit Director, Gary Rippel, said “Amanda doesn’t dwell on the past, but focuses on the future and the success that awaits her. Amanda is a role model, a leader, and a compassionate young lady who puts others first and is focused on helping others overcome their struggles in life.”
At the Club, Amanda enjoys taking field trips, especially college tours, and the annual Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation summer camp. She assists with holiday parties and helps organize the Adopt-a-Highway program. Younger members enjoy attending Tae Kwon Do classes led by Amanda, a school blackbelt and certified instructor.
Amanda is currently a Junior with an impressive 3.2 GPA. At school she enjoys participating in choir, art, and DECA, a marketing organization. After graduation, Amanda hopes to earn a degree in Criminal Justice and to pursue a career as a profiler for the FBI.
“Amanda is one of the most deserving people I know, and it would be an honor to have her represent the organization as the 2017 Youth of the Year.” – Gary Rippell, Unit Director
Actual (not really) footage of Amanda being amazing:
So, do you think Amanda will be the 2017 Youth of the Year?
Stay tuned for more Youth of the Year Finalist spotlights. You can meet Amere here.
This profile is the first in a series of four featuring our Youth of the Year Finalists. To learn more about our Youth of the Year Program and how we select a winner, you can visit last week's blog post here.
Amere Langley is a renaissance man. He is successful in many areas of his life including sports, academics, and music.
Amere could probably do this on the first try.
At 16-years-old, Amere is the youngest of our Youth of the Year Finalists, but he has the presence of someone older. In the past few years he has faced great loss with the passing of his grandfather and great-uncle. Despite only seeing his grandfather four or five times a year, he had an incredible impact on Amere. After his passing in 2014, Amere struggled with guilt, wishing he had spent more time with his role model. One year later in 2015, his great-uncle passed away leaving Amere heartbroken. It was during this time that Amere really understood the saying "you don't know what you have 'til it's gone."
Amere feels extremely lucky to still have his father in his life, but also feels that he has family at his Boys & Girls Clubs. He credits Program Director, Marc Lattimore, and former Unit Director, Mike Mullins, with putting him on the path to success.
It is clear that Amere found that path and has stuck to it. Amere is a sophomore and is already deeply involved in many extracurricular activities. He is a member of the Math Honor Society, runs on the track team, is Vice-President of the French Club, is in the honors choir vocal ensemble, and has an impressive 3.6 GPA while taking 2 AP and 3 Honors classes.
Amere also regularly participates in Boys & Girls Club activities at the Peninsula Unit, where he has attended since 2012. Roller skating, musical jump rope, and arts & crafts are some of his favorites, but going on field trips is the highlight of his experiences because he enjoys representing his Club while out in the community. He also represents himself well within the Club. As a graduate of the 1st annual YES Academy and 2nd annual Ready 2 Work program, Amere has learned career skills that make him a valuable Junior Staff member. He often assists in running programs for younger members and helps to serve EatSMART meals. Unit Director, Josh Goffigan, said "he is a leader and a role model for the younger kids and even kids that are his age."
In the future, Amere hopes to own a successful business. He is not yet positive about what he wants to study, but higher education is definitely in his future. He is interested in pursuing a PhD, however he has not decided on a subject. He’s leaning towards mathematics or business and said he would love to attend Harvard’s business school.
Do you think Amere will be our 2017 Youth of the Year?
You can meet our other Youth of the Year Finalists by following our blog. New biographies will be released over the following weeks.
Every year, one teen is selected from each of our Clubs as a Club Youth of the Year. To be selected is an honor, as it means the member has demonstrated exemplary behavior, strong morals, and the values of the Boys & Girls Clubs mission. Each of these members then have the opportunity to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula's Youth of the Year. That title is a mouthful, but it comes with incredible opportunity and reward. Our Youth of the Year is presented a scholarship and is entered into the State Youth of the Year competition for a chance to advance to Regional and National competition and a chance to represent Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Many of our Youth of the Year candidates take part in more than one of our life-changing programs. From Ready to Work to Triple Play, from Keystone Club to Cheerleading, these members take advantage of what our Clubs have to offer. Not only do they receive many benefits from their Clubs, they also give back. For these members, the Club is not just a place to hang out after school; the Club is a home away from home and the other members, volunteers, and staff are family.
We know that each of these members has a bright future to look forward to with many successes. They have the passion and the responsibility to achieve their goals. We cannot wait to see what their next steps are in life and look forward to their continued involvement in our mission as members and future alumni. Please help us congratulate these outstanding youth on this accomplishment!
Meet the Youth of the Year Finalists:
We also want to give a big congratulations to the other Candidates:
And not pictured, Kania Hammie-King from Lassiter Courts.
Our Youth of the Year Winner will be announced at our 29th Annual Steak 'N Burger Dinner. Each of the finalists will speak to the audience about their experience with Boys & Girls Clubs before the announcement is made. If you are interested in supporting our youth by attending the event, you can purchase tickets on the event page.
For the next few weeks leading up to Steak 'N Burger, we will feature our Finalists in a special blog series. Stay tuned to learn more about these incredible young men and women!
We know kids LOVE candy, but holidays and celebrations often lead to an overload of sugar and unhealthy decisions. At our Clubs we strive to teach our members to live healthy lifestyles - to stay active, develop a positive mental attitude, and choose nutritious foods. The healthy lifestyle doesn't mean missing out on any fun though. As Valentine's Day approaches, consider one of these healthy alternatives for you child's classroom valentines.
If you have a few hours to spare, these cute bracelets can be made easily without breaking the bank. Visit your local craft store and pick out embroidery floss in your child's favorite colors. Simply braid 3 strands together and knot the loose ends. We especially love these cute tags that read "Our class would KNOT be the same without you!"
If you just can't seem to part with a sweet snack as a valentine, consider trading in the candy for fresh fruit. Paired with these tags, they make the perfect gift.
How adorable are these "Hogs & Kisses" valentines?? With a cup of apple or berry sauce, a few spare craft supplies, and a glue gun, the whole class will be in hog heaven!
The perfect valentine for young bookworms - these are fun AND functional. The best part is that they are a blank canvas! Many free designs can be found online to simply print and cut out. If you are feeling creative, you can design your own or have your child color unique bookmarks for each classmate. There is no limit to the possibilities for this valentine.
Cupid will hit his mark with these sweet and simple gifts. Search the bargain section of your local Target, Walmart, or dollar store for packs of Valentine's pencils. Punch or cut out paper hearts, and paper feathers to attach to each end.
It can't get simpler than this. If you don't have the time or energy for a full on DIY project, stickers could be your perfect valentine. Purchase several packs of stickers - bonus points if they are Valentine's themed - and divide them into separate sheets. Print out labels that read "Valentine, I am STUCK on you" and staple to the sticker sheet. Easy Peasy!
This option is a bit more labor intensive, but will be worth the effort! You will need a silicone mold - you can find these in the baking section of most stores, or sometimes where you would find ice trays. Next, take all the broken pieces of crayons in your house - we know you have a full bin of broken crayons if you have a child - and put the pieces into the mold. A few minutes in the oven will result in a rainbow marbled crayon in the shape of a heart. Bonus points if you package these up with a small coloring page!
What do you think of these healthier alternatives to Valentine's Day candy? Post your pictures and comments if you try one out this year and let us know how it goes!
For decades children have eagerly written notes to the man in red, requesting that their most wished for toys end up below the tree. But what toys does Santa get the most requests for? Since he is pretty busy this time of year, we couldn't ask Santa directly, so we searched the internet and found this Buzzfeed article (they must have better connections) listing the most popular gifts by decade.
What are Boys & Girls Clubs members hoping for this Christmas?
We asked Club members what their top wish list items are - these are some of the responses:
Remote Controlled Car
Easy Bake Oven
Did you know that Americans are expected to spend an average of $929 on holiday gifts for their loved ones this year?
According to American Research Group, Inc.
89% of the families we serve are considered "low-income" by HUD parameters. These families have hard working parents that put all their effort into making ends meet, putting food on the table, and putting a roof over their children. Buying gifts is a luxury for these families, and unfortunately, many parents don't have the means to put presents under the tree this year.
We are lucky to have the support of many generous community partners who create holiday magic for our members. Canon Virginia, Iron Skullz Motorcycle Club, and Pepsi are just a few of the outstanding organizations that have sponsored holiday parties for our members! Thanks to them, the gifts our kids dreamed about are now a reality.
This year we created the inaugural Virtual Angel Tree so that even more of our members in need could celebrate with gifts. Thankfully, all of these children have been adopted and taken care of this year. The generous community members that purchased their gifts are delivering them to our administrative office. We will be distributing the presents to parents so that they can give them to the kids on Christmas morning. We hope that this effort not only brings happiness to our members, but also relieves the stress and anxiety of the parents that worry they cannot provide the presents their children deserve.
If you are interested in supporting our members this holiday season, please visit our Virtual Angel Tree. Although the Angels have already been adopted, we also have Club Wish List items listed. In order to keep our Clubs engaging and exciting for members, we do our best to provide the amenitites they want. Items such as roller skates, art supplies, popcorn machines, speakers, and projectors create a home-away-from-home for our members and allow staff to lead exciting programs. Please help us start 2017 off right with the items we need most!
"It's not fair to expect young men to know how to act in society without positive role models to instill morals and values at an early age," said Area Director Cameron Bertrand. "Passport to Manhood is a way for us to do just that so they can be the positive, young men they deserve to be."
Passport to Manhood is a program in the Health & Life Skills Core area that was developed by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The goal of the program is to teach and promote responsibility, reinforce positive behavior, and develop character in adolescent males.
The passage from boyhood to manhood is challenging, requiring adolescent males to understand and manage many issues and transitions, oftentimes without a clear role model. Passport to Manhood addresses critical issues that young men face during this time, such as ethics, decision-making, wellness, ideas about fatherhood, employment, conflict, diversity, and self-esteem.
A large study of 7th- to 12th-grade students found that some of the key motivations for opioid use included sensation-seeking, rule-breaking, and aggressive behaviors, all of which are considered characteristically masculine and are examples of the externalizing behaviors boys may engage in to compensate for social-emotional problems." - Big Boys Don't Cry, Child Trends Blog
Every Club will be running Passport to Manhood this year. The program is open to young males ages 8-18, though they are split into age-appropriate groups. This past summer, the Pinedale Manor Club ran a successful Passport to Manhood group. The program focused on teens, and young men met regularly to discuss the program topics. Staff facilitated two field trips that focused on etiquette, customer service, and personal interactions. The group visited Old Navy, where they learned the history, workplace etiquette, how to interact with customers, but also store processes, including dressing the mannequins, manning the cash register, and stocking inventory. The manager incorporated a discussion of integrity and the importance of one's world.
The second field trip was to Buffalo Wild Wings, where they practiced customer service and first impressions by serving food. This fall, the program at Pinedale Manor will be run by volunteers of the fraternity Omega Psi Phi.
"My favorite part of Passport to Manhood is the topic conversations," said DeSean W., Passport to Manhood participant and 2016 Youth of the Year. "Simply because the topics are things that we think about as growing young men, but are probably too scared or embarrassed to ask We get comfortable with the staff and our brothers, which brings us closer together, and then we can grow together."
According to The Center For Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey, 28.4% of males were involved in a physical fight in the 12 months prior to the survey compared to 16.5% of females.
Thank you for being a part of our Boys & Girls Clubs family. No matter how big or small a role you play, know that you have made a difference.
To our dedicated staff, I am thankful for the countless hours you spend developing caring and positive relationships with Club members. You provide stability to so many children who may not find security in other areas of their lives. Your are mentors, advocates, sports team coaches, tutors, art instructors, field trip chaperones, party throwers, and a million other things to our Club members. Thank you for filling a role in their lives that is so desperately needed. YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.
To our caring volunteers, I am thankful for your service day in and day out. We could not fulfill our mission without your efforts. Know that you are the bright spot in a child's day and that a Club member is eagerly waiting for you to arrive. From our Clubs to our administrative office, thrift store, and boardroom, we rely on you every day and we are forever grateful for your time. YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.
To our generous donors, I am thankful for your continued support. Many of our members' families are never charged a penny for our services. Your financial support means that thousands of youth have a home away from home full of caring and trusted mentors and friends. You provide life-changing programs that turn young children into caring, responsible, and productive citizens that go on to lead successful lives. YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.
To our Club members both past and present, I am thankful for your tenacity, joy, and infectious spirit. Every day you teach us valuable lessons. Many of you have struggled with adversity in your young lives but have shown great courage in overcoming your obstacles. You act as role models among your peers in the community and lead the way through service, leadership, and scholarship. Your hope and positivity for your own futures is inspiring and I believe you will achieve your goals, because you have the support of so many people that I have already thanked in this letter. YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.
I wish you all a safe and happy holiday and hope you are fortunate enough to spend it with those you love.
With many thanks,
President & CEO
Jareil is 15 years old and going to 10th Grade.
When did he join the club: "During my 5th grade summer"
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Subject: "English because it is the easiest subject for me and I'm good at reading"
Fun Fact: "I like football and I like to draw."
Future Goals: "I want to be a marine"
"Favorite Activity: "I play pool and I'm good at it"
Boys & Girls Clubs