These are real stories from real kids whose lives were saved by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. Outside of the Club, they face the statistics. Cleveland is the seventh most violent city in the country. Nineteen percent of violent crime victims are youths under 19 years old. Roughly 50 percent of Cleveland students drop out. But inside the Club, they beat the odds.
Help us save our kids.
“It was the only place I felt safe.”
At age 11, Kinyatta found herself without a father, a home or hope to hold onto. She attended the Boys & Girls Club regularly since she was 6. It was the only place she felt safe and, sometimes, the only place she ate a hot meal. Staff supported her in school and encouraged her to excel. They took her on college tours and helped her find scholarships. In 2011, she graduated from John Adams High School as salutatorian and is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Hiram College. “The Club was a large part of my past, is a significant part of my present, and will be an important part of my future.”
“I understood what men were and what fools were.”
Richard lost his father to prison and eventually, his uncle, cousin and younger brother as well. With no role model to follow, he began to hang with the wrong crowd and became known more for his ability to fight than lead. But he didn’t want that. He started to spend more and more time at the Club. “I understood what men were and what fools were,” he said. Soon, he became the man younger Club members looked up to, inspiring them. After he graduates from Baldwin Wallace University next semester, he plans to attend law school and continue to work as an Athletics Instructor at the West Side Boys & Girls Club.
“They saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself.”
“My grandmother once told me that the purpose of life is a life of purpose.” When Dajah was young, she experienced one loss after another. Her father was deported, her cousin died of AIDS, and two of her friends fell victim to cancer and violence. The only bright spot in her life was at the King Kennedy – Boys & Girls Club. “They saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself.” They comforted and guided her, and helped her realize that school was the only way to a better future. “The Club gave me a reason to push harder.” She majored in creative writing at the Cleveland School of the Arts and is currently pursuing a degree at Bowling Green State University in Healthcare Administration with a double minor in Business and Gerontology. She has an internship at the Cleveland Clinic and hopes to work there after graduation. When she’s home from school she works at the Club and continues to write whenever she can.
“When kids on the street approach me I say ‘I’m going to the Club, and they leave you alone. They know Club kids are better off.”
StephanieFound Hope at the Club
“I’ve lived in public housing my whole life.” Stephanie steps out the door every day to face a world of “fights, shooting, police, and drugs being sold on the street.” Inside, however, she has her mother and grandmother to help her face these challenges. “My grandmother was like my best friend.” But cancer was the enemy. It claimed the lives of both Stephanie’s grandmother and childhood friend. Shortly after their deaths, Stephanie lost her father whom she met for the first time only a year earlier. Living in a world of loss, her grades suffered, her self-image declined, and depression seeped in. However, the Boys & Girls Club was a constant companion. “Knowing the Club is there for me overpowered my fear.” Her relationships and responsibilities at the Club lifted her up to a higher place. Staff helped her regain her footing at school, and she is excited to graduate from Cleveland Central Catholic High School on June 5, 2012. She wants to be a nurse and to work at the Cleveland Clinic. After graduation, she will continue working at the Club as a tutor and mentor. She wants the other children at the Club to know, “I will never leave them; I will always be there,” the way the staff has been there for her. “I am who I am because of the Club.”
“I cannot see my life without the Club. There is no place I would rather be.”
IsabelFuture World Traveler
When Isabel was born, she was under the care of her godmother. For three years, she traded custody back and forth between her godmother and her birth mother. “At that time, no one cared. It was like everyone was against me. It was hard growing up. I had to take care of myself, my little sister and my older brother.” When she found the Boys & Girls Club, Isabel was able to move back in with her godmother, find stability and triumph over her past. “I love the Club, I love it here, I can finally be a kid.” She has many dreams, like going to college, being a teacher and traveling the world. “The Club helps me do what I am good at and become even better.” The Boys & Girls Club has given Isabel stability and has helped her take her mind off those troublesome years. Finally, Isabel can be a kid who just wants to see the world.
“I need the Club because I don’t want to be on the streets.”
Jorge “Bam Bam” Future Math Teacher
Jorge was born and raised on the west side of Cleveland. In the West side neighborhood there are two choices, the streets or the Club. At the age of 13 he chose the Club – he needs it. Growing up, Jorge never knew his father. When Jorge was a baby, his father moved to Puerto Rico, leaving behind his wife and three young children. Jorge lives at home with his mother, sister and brother. His mother has been out of work for a few years, leaving the responsibility of their family to his siblings. His 18-year-old brother once went to the Club, but when he was a young teenager he had to step in and become the man of the house. This forced Jorge’s brother to give up the Club to work in a factory. Having no father and both siblings working to support their family is the only way of life Jorge knows. At the age of 10, Jorge discovered the Club and learned a new way of life. “I need the Club because I don’t want to be on the streets.” Every day, every hour the Club is open you will find Jorge there.“ If it wasn’t for the Club, I wouldn’t be able to play sports, go on field trips, and work on my favorite subject, math.” The Club gives Jorge a safe place to go and a place to follow his dreams. “When I grow up, I want to play basketball. I want to teach math and gym.” If Jorge could change one thing about the Club, it would be “for it to be open forever!”
“At the young age of 6, I suffered the loss of my father.”
WilliamFuture Album Title, “Free Will”
William’s father was one of the most notorious drug dealers in Cleveland. When William was 6, his father was shot to death during a robbery. Shortly after his father’s death, William moved in with his grandmother. A widow, she was only able to provide for William because of the Mt. Pleasant Boys & Girls Club. “Not having a father figure, certain programs from the Club shaped me as a man.” He went every day and took field trips he’ll never forget. Like seeing a Cavs game, watching the Browns training program, and meeting the famous rappers, T.I. and Gorilla Zoe. Outside of the Club he rapped, wrote poetry and stories. In school, he excelled at writing – especially poetry – and through the Club he was accepted into the Kenyon Review Young Writers Camp. In the summer of 2011, he became a Graduate to Go Intern at Taco Bell. Thanks to this experience he was able to travel to California and spend a day at Disneyland. But the excitement came to a halt. That same summer, William lost two of his friends – one committed suicide and the other was stabbed to death in a fight. Seeing his environment the way it is, William knows he has no other choice but to go to college to succeed. He wants to major in creative writing. He’s been looking forward to his senior year and graduation, but still relies on the Club for some things. “The Club has been a positive place that has impacted my life. The Club is my second home – so I will never be alone.”