For me, growing up in rural East Texas was tough. I was one of five children being raised in a single-parent household. Although our mother did her best to provide for each of us, we had insufficient financial resources for higher education, inadequate health insurance, and limited opportunities for employment. I had all the reasons to continue the cycle of poverty.

However, it was the love of my mother, my teachers, and my mentors that instilled hope in me, and I aspired to be more than what the community had already branded me to become…another failure, another statistic.

The good news is that my journey through adversity taught me many life lessons that now allows for me, along with the BGCD staff, volunteers, mentors, and others, to be a beacon of hope to the thousands of our Club members who enter our doors with no hope.

I am reminded of one young man I had the privilege of meeting over 10 years ago. His name is Isaac, a young Hispanic kid from a very tough East Dallas neighborhood where, at the time, gang recruitment was at its highest peak. Isaac, also raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to support her family, was a prime gang candidate. Thankfully, Isaac and his little sister were placed in the East Dallas Club where they felt safe and secure from the streets.

I began to mentor Isaac during his freshman year in high school. With little to no encouragement from his high school counselors, Isaac enrolled in BGCD’s Collegiate STEPs program which prepares teen Club members for college. He didn’t know how he’d pay for school, but our Scholarship Committee helped with that challenge.

Isaac went on to complete his college education in civil engineering and now works for the Dallas-based concrete contractor, Lithko. He didn’t let the streets define him. Isaac faced his adversities with a keen sense of a commitment to his family, community, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas. In fact, he rallied the help of his company and they have donated their services to beautify the Oak Cliff Club, saving the organization thousands of dollars!

Isaac is no longer between a rock and a hard place.