2023 Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha Youth of the Year: Erica D.
The Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha would like to proudly introduce and congratulate our 2023 Youth of the Year, Erica D.
What is Youth of the Year?
Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for the Club youth as well as a voice for all of our communities young people. Over the decades, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha’s mission and are proof to the impact the Club makes in transforming and saving youths’ lives.
The Club’s Impact on Erica
Below is an excerpt from Erica’s Youth of the Year Speech on her experience at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha and what the Club means to her.
Being a part of the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha has had a tremendous impact on my life both socially and academically. I have been an active member of the Boys and Girls Club for over six years and the experiences that I have participated in with the club have helped me grow into a more confident and outgoing woman. I remember when I first started at the club in the fifth grade. I was quiet, shy and just not comfortable with many things outside of my life at home. The field trips that the Boys and Girls Club offered became a way for me to see other people in action and learn how to be more social and confident. Meeting Mrs. Felicia was a highlight of my first field trip. Since that first day we met she has always been kind to me, listened to me and found ways to include me in activities which I may have tried to avoid earlier in my life.
During the year of 2018 I experienced a hardship within my family, my mother had just recovered from neck and spinal surgery. She was unable to work at the time and we ended up being homeless. We had to stay in a shelter and we didn’t have support from other family members, but I never looked at this situation as a tragedy or devastation. I viewed my situation as a speed bump and a story to tell to those going through the same experience, but I never stopped having faith because I knew GOD had a greater plan for me. The Club helped me escape from reality because I came to the Club every day after school. Being at the shelter constantly reminded me of my situation and it brought me a feeling of sorrow, but being at the Club brought me joy to be around kids my age and to have a full stomach, sometimes Mr. Kevin used to give me a little extra which made me smile. The Club helped me on my journey through my adversity and they didn’t even know that just coming into work made my day ten times better.
I found that there was a whole world of wonderful people and great adventures right there at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha. Over that first summer at the Club, I made some great friends, and I found a new part of myself. I would not say that I was the spokesperson for growth at that time, but I was making progress.
My personal progress took time, patience, and courage. I was able to feel more and more comfortable around my friends and the staff at the Club, but no one knew how difficult it was for me to work through my anxiety and find the strength to get there and stay there. Eventually going to the club got easier but I still struggled to find that true comfort level where I could just be myself. The club was often crowded, and new kids came and went. At that time, I did not realize that those were opportunities; I saw them as obstacles. Obstacles to making friendships and sharing; obstacles to me being more comfortable and at ease – eventually I started to talk a little more about my fears and other kids had similar stories as well. We learned that each of us had things that made us nervous and that together we could help one another and open up to new experiences. Personal growth is a journey and when you think that you are alone on that journey it is much more challenging. Being at the club made me realize, firsthand, that I was not alone.
The Boys and Girls Club is a special place and I still look forward to our field trips and club experiences. I participate in the field trips at The Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha and just three weeks ago I found myself at Wilmot Mountain learning how to snowboard. These types of new experiences are vital to growth for me and all the kids at the club. Me, snowboarding – I never would have seen that in my life and without the Boys and Girls Club providing the opportunity I may have never found the time to ever try it. My club experiences continue to teach me to be outgoing and courageous and I am forever grateful.