Erick Rojas first encountered the Boys and Girls Club in Rome, Georgia at the beginning of his freshman year.
As a Bonner Scholar, he is required to complete a certain amount of service each semester. There are a wide variety of service sites available, but Erick wasn’t sure which one to choose.
“To be honest, I went with the Boys and Girls club because they fit my schedule the best my freshman year,” said Rojas when asked about this decision.
Despite letting mere convenience make the decision initially, Erick committed all four years of his college career to serving at the Boys and Girls Club. Erick says now that the other people and the kids he met there are the reasons that he decided to stay.
Although many people have heard of the Boys and Girls Club, few people know the range of activities and programs they actually offer.
“We help them with their homework, they are given the opportunity to explore different avenues that they may not be able to explore otherwise because of lack of resources,” Rojas explained, when asked about the services offered.
Some of these “different avenues” include dance classes, football league, basketball league, art classes and more. Erick even spent some of his volunteer time teaching piano lessons.
“It gives them a safe place to let them have fun with their classmates, and it keeps them focused, and teach them how to use their time for different activities,” Erick said.
On top of these fun activities, the Boys and Girls Club offers programs to help educate the students on things they may not learn inside the classroom. The topics for these programs can cover anything from citizenship to professional dress to healthy eating.
“Daily, now, the Boys and Girls Club provides an extra meal for the kids,” said Erick, “Some days, the only meal these kids will eat is at school. So they provide a second meal for the day.”
Erick has served in a variety of aspects in the Boys and Girls Club during the last four years, and has gotten to connect with many students as a result.
Rojas distinctly remembers one student in particular, named Sam*.
When Sam first came to the Boys and Girls Club, he was struggling to overcome a bad stutter and self-confidence issues.
“He would always come up to me and just say, ‘Nobody likes me, nobody wants to play with me,'” Erick recalls.
Overtime, Erick formed a friendship with Sam. Because of the programs offered at the Boys and Girls Club, Sam was able to take speech lessons and connect with other kids.
After time Sam blossomed into a well adjusted kid.
“To other people, it was like not a big deal,” Erick said, “But it was cool to see him go from kind of an outcast to just being another kid.”
The kids aren’t the only ones who gain knowledge and skills from the Boys and Girls Club. Erick too found himself learning things he never would have otherwise.
“I learned you have to be consistent with kids,” Erick said, “You can’t just show up for a day or two and expect some big impact. It has to be something that you’re consistent with for a long time.”
Overall, Erick has been able to see the impact the Boys and Girls Club has been able to make on each student that comes through the doors.
“A lot of these kids did not see the importance of school, did not see the importance of good grades,” Rojas said, “A lot of what the Boys and Girls Club teaches them is that education matters. Setting those standards for these kids will help them elevate their aspirations later on.”
Pushing these kids to places beyond what they would’ve normally dreamed of for themselves is what makes the Boys and Girls Club so important to Erick.
“That is what makes it important to me,” he said.
For more resources on the Boys and Girls Club, check out their website.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the student!