Good evening, everyone. My name is Markeese and I am the 2016 Youth of the Year representative for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor. I am honored to be standing here before you today to tell you my story. The Boys & Girls Club has helped me overcome many obstacles such as depression, anger, bitterness, and shyness. There were times where I would not say anything to anybody because I was a very timid person.
All my life, I've been bullied and talked about; I was almost to the point where I wanted to give it all up. I was on the verge of suicide because I felt like I was nothing and I would amount to nothing. I just wanted to end it all because I was tired of people jumping me when I innocently walked home, minding my business. I was tired of crying because I was afraid of speaking up for myself. I was very ashamed of myself. I didn’t really think much of myself, but what others thought of me. Thanks to the Boys & Girls Club, I now feel like someone. I am a somebody and no one can change that.
The Boys & Girls Club has helped me with a numerous things, such as the “Teen Summit Week.” I was able to overcome the obstacle of speaking in front of people because it gave me an opportunity to become a host; this forced me to come out of my shell and talk in front of my peers and the people who talked about me and put me down.
The Boys & Girls Club has also helped me because I grew up without a father in my life, and the Boys & Girls Club provided the Passport to Manhood program to teach me things men need to know. They taught me things on how to become a man and the responsibilities a man has in life.
Coming to the Boys & Girls Club gave me a sense of belonging and now it’s like a second home to me. I no longer have to be afraid or run into the bathroom to hide from the pain. Being a part of the Boys & Girls Club gave me opportunities to see things and go places I never thought I would go. Going on trips such as the college tours, the trip to Kentucky, and going to baseball games. I would have never thought in a million years I would see a live baseball game, but because of the Boys & Girls Club I had that opportunity. It was the most exciting experience ever, and I enjoyed it more because I was affiliated with people who love to have fun and genuinely care.
Most of my friends come to the Boys & Girls Club because they know I go there and it’s just a wonderful feeling to know that I’m impacting someone else’s life, that they are looking up to me. I really love every moment I’m in the building. Without the Boys & Girls Club, my life would not be the way it is today. So, to the Boys & Girls Clubs everywhere worldwide, I would like to say, “Thank you for uplifting me and other youth, giving us the confidence we needed.” And to all youth out there, remember to always #BeGreat!