The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club is home to youth and adolescents who live in the inner-city of Durham. On any given day, you’ll see 80-100 Club members running around; you will probably find the majority of them playing pickup basketball in the gym. At our Club, we ensure that each child gets the attention they need when it comes to literacy. One of the first things each student does when they arrive at the Boys & Girls Club is their homework. You may see a video game tournament happening simultaneously with a game of pool; while other children are reading books with volunteers in our Reading Program (thanks to Book Harvest for hooking us up!).
On May 23, 2017, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club hosted a very special event. The busy basketball gym was converted into a makeshift banquet hall, complete with a buffet of food supplied by our friends at The Chicken Hut. Trophies lined the tables against the wall, and a podium was set up in the middle of it all. “Youth Can Count on Me” is a banquet designed to honor and celebrate the students in our Boys & Girls Club who have achieved great success throughout the school year. This year, we had a lot to celebrate. The event was kicked off at approximately 6:00PM with a special “College Bound” signing event, where we were able to celebrate 15 of our senior Boys & Girls Club members who will be attending college in the Fall; some of those will be the first in their family to attend college. The crowd erupted as each student announced their college plans in the Fall. Proud parents beamed at their children, and our younger Club members clapped excitedly for their role models. Our Teen Program is a small, but mighty group of young people at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Durham. Our Executive Director was perhaps the most proud of all. Joshua Dorsette has been with the Club for 10 years now, and has had the pleasure of watching these 15 seniors grow from little Club kids to the successful young adults they are today. Some of these students will be heading to college on basketball scholarships - all of that time spent playing in the gym after school was not in vain!
The banquet went on to celebrate the various programs that we have going on in our Club every day. Mr. Freddie Lambert has been a dedicated volunteer since late 2015. When I first met Mr. Lambert, an older gentleman, he walked into my office and was determined to bring the game of checkers into the Club. I was unsure of this at first. When I let Mr. Lambert know that he would be working with elementary school students, he was not phased. We decided to give it a shot, and I am so glad we did. Each week, Mr. Lambert commands a class of 5-10 students as he teaches the ins and outs of checkers and the life lessons that go along with the game. Life is not about winning, or losing, because both will happen. Life is essentially about learning to play the game: make smart choices, and learn to deal with what life puts in front of you. Mr. Lambert presented several students with awards of achievement at our banquet; it was a special moment for both the kids and Mr. Lambert.
As the awards continued to be passed out, we celebrated our Club members that stayed on the A/B Honor Roll all year, the Male and Female Athlete of the Year, and more. The Durham Police Department presented an award to the Club member who exhibited positive leadership skills throughout the year. Our program, Bridging the Gap, is a collaborative between The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and the Durham Police Department. Three days a week, the Durham Police stop by our Club to mingle with our Club members. In an effort to grow community and police relationships, Captain Mock (of District 1) joined with us to bring a positive and safe environment for our youth to get to know the protectors of their community. Through basketball, reading, coloring, and checkers, this program has become a favorite for both the kids and the police!
Mr. Charles Lyon, one of our past Executive Directors and current dedicated volunteer/supporter, presented several new awards this year. Four students were recognized with the Emanuel Croslan Award, for courage and for compassion. These students exemplified the qualities that Mr. Croslan brought to our Boys & Girls Club years ago, when he served for 30 years as the Executive Director. His memory lives on in our Club and his dedication is still impacting our youth to this day.
Finally, our Executive Director presented the award for Youth of the Year to Tamia Williams, a graduating senior of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club. She is attending Johnson C. Smith University, where she will be a cheerleader and pursue a degree in Education. She shared with everyone at the banquet that it was the Boys & Girls Club that inspired her to pursue cheerleading, and encouraged the younger youth to continue pursuing an education and to take advantage of the programming offered by the Club. Her leadership and guidance will be missed, but we are so excited to see where she goes from here.
Durham County alone has a dropout rate of 3.06, the highest it’s been since 2013. Of that, 60% of the dropouts in 2016 were male, and over 50% of those who dropped out of high school were black.* Our Club of 80% black, 15% hispanic, and 4% biracial students are living in a world that is not giving them an easy path to success, but they are doing it anyway. The 15 seniors that are getting scholarships to colleges in the Fall from our Club were all minorities. One graduate is a female, but the rest are male. One student shared his personal experience of growing up in a rough part of Durham, and how excited he was to get out and go to college. In a world of statistics, we see individuals. We see potential. We see success. And ultimately, we see growth.
We are so thankful for the sponsors, donors, parent volunteers, Board members, and Council members, and others who help make The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club a place of safety, refuge, and learning for the kids of Durham. If you want to get involved in what we have going on, visit www.bgcdurham.org/volunteer.