A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the Boys and Girls Club when my older sister became a staff. I quickly became a leader in training, Vice President of keystone and participated in all of the programs that I could. I began to understand the club is a place where youth learn there is hope; hope for an education, hope for something greater, hope for the future. The point of no return for me was a day when I lost a very dear friend. The club was the only place I could think to go, the only place I wanted to go. Hours before the club was supposed to open they opened their doors, opened their arms, and opened their hearts. I needed them that day and they were there. But the truth is they are there every day after school for each member with open doors, arms, and hearts, and that is the true reason we are all here today.

Although I was not able to go to the club during the challenges of my childhood, I am incredibly grateful to have it now. It supports the youth at every level of of need and stage of development. It became my first job which allows me to give others what I did not have as a child. I want to use my voice and share my story so that others can benefit from this life changing program, these staff, and this family. My hope is that all youth know that behind the blue doors of the Boys and Girls Club is love, safety, acceptance, and the choice to have a bright future regardless of the past circumstances, or defeated feelings about what’s ahead of them.

My choice to break away from my parents cycle of addiction and poverty has not been easy but it has been liberating. I have worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and made my health a priority as a member and captain of the basketball team for nine years.

Shannon G. – 2016 Oroville Youth of the Year