The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Atlanta currently has three unit operations (Fuqua, Peachcrest and Bellwood), is a member of the Salvation Army Metro Atlanta, and is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The purpose of our Boys & Girls Clubs is to provide youth development services and to promote the health, physical, social, educational, vocational and character development of boys and girls.
Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability. Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month winners and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.
Meet Christopher Clark, our Peachcrest Club Youth of the Year!
What the Boys and Girls Club Means to Me
by Christopher Clark
As I approached the big, red doors of Peachcrest Boys and Girls Club, I felt as if my entire summer was ruined. No more ten-hour naps, full television access, and dibs on the good snacks before everyone else came home. I was preparing for the worst experience of my life, this being my first summer camp and all, I didn’t know what to expect. I imagined screaming kids, loud whistles, annoying camp counselors, horrible food, and a complete waste of time, and when I began to go there, I got everything I thought I would. I stayed to myself a lot, not letting my guard down for a second, it took forever for me to interact, and even attempt to have some type of conversation with the people there. In that time, I was in a bad place, not really understanding myself, mad at the world because they didn’t understand, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, I didn’t know that the exact place that I despised, was the same exact place where I needed to be. It was a day like any other day outside, the coach at the time, tired of urging me to get involved, just sat patiently aside with me as we watched the other kids play soccer. I was beginning to give up on this whole summer camp idea, and go beg my mom to let me stay home, for the hundredth time, until they asked me to throw back the stray ball, that came rolling my way 5 miles per hour. After that, they asked me to play and of course I said yes, because at that time soccer was my life, after that first kick, the rest was history. I began to interact with many more people, and soon became very popular around the club. I also started to make great relationships with the staff, running errands with them whenever they needed something, helping them put up posters, answering the phone at the front desk, you name it I did it. At this point the club wasn’t just a facility, a day care, it was home. I became more engaged in the club when I was old enough to come into the teen center; there I made amazing friendships with some lifelong friends. We did so many different programs and activities, I couldn’t keep up, from numerous field trips, and out-reach programs, and volunteer work, and just plain fun, the club and I became inseparable. Not only was I finding new ways of helping people, I was finding out new things about myself. The different theatrical and musical performances we put on ignited my love of music and entertainment, which is why I want to major in Mass Communications. The constant drilling of furthering our education and making a way for our future is why I have two scholarships to two different colleges, and more on the way. The excessive speeches and lectures about loving yourself, and loving others, and being confident, is why I stand before you today. See the club has changed my entire life, and I owe them everything. If it wasn’t for the warm, family like feeling I got, each day I walked through those big red doors and signed in, the numerous “Hey Chris” and heys I got, the hugs and handshakes, and the help of God I received, I couldn’t have made it to where I am now. The Boys and Girls Club, especially the teen center, were more than just friends, and staff members, were a really big, dysfunctional family. The people here truly care about us, and try to help in the best way they know how, even when we don’t deserve it. So what exactly does the Boys and Girls clubs mean to me? Well it’s not just a holding cell where you wait for your parents to pick you up, but to me it’s a second home, really a first, because I probably spend more time there than at me real home. The Boys and Girls Club is a safe haven for us, a place we can all go and be ourselves without social persecution, a place all our own, where we learn and grow, and start take steps towards our future. The Boys and Girls Club is my comfort zone, a place where I can be myself, a place to grow, a place to learn, a place of pure happiness.