Member Spotlight July 16

MVP  Member Spotlight: Elijah

Like many of us in the north, eight-year-old Elijah suffered the winter blues. It was too cold outside to play and he was in need of some fun! Elijah’s mom enrolled him in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor where he found that fun he so desperately sought. Fast forward seven years, and today 15-year-old Elijah is more involved in the Clubs than ever. As a junior at Benton Harbor High School, Elijah is now a Club member at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center. 

Last summer, Elijah was voted Most Valuable Player for the Night Court basketball league. This year, he began the 2016 summer season as a first round draft pick, playing for the Pistons. One of his highlights of the Night Court Draft Night was the opportunity to spend some one-on-one quality time with NBA player Wilson Chandler, Forward for the Denver Nuggets and a Benton Harbor native. Chandler’s inspirational words to Elijah made an impact.
Elijah says he was surprised last year when he learned that mentoring sessions were a part of the Friday night summer program. “I just wanted to play basketball and have something to do on a Friday night,” says the teen. “After two weeks, I was coming just for the mentoring!” he said. “We did one activity that taught us about making good choices.” In the activity, the teens took closer steps to a basket for all of the positive decisions they made, steps away for the negative decisions. It was a real way to see that good choices got them that much closer to the basket and made the basketball shot much easier. The less positive the choice, the harder the shot was to make. Elijah says, “It made me realize that it’s just smart to make better decisions.”

Elijah became an ambassador for Night Court, making a successful presentation to the Berrien Community Foundation to partially fund the 2016 Night Court program. He described how important Night Court is to him as an alternative to the many things to do on a Friday night that can lead to trouble. “I would rather be at the Club than any place in the world on a Friday night.”

Elijah tells us the Clubs have a real impact on his life. “Growing up in the Clubs, and around great instructors and leaders, has taught me so much about how to become a man,” he said. One of his biggest lessons was learning how to express his feelings without anger. Today, you would never know of Elijah’s past struggles with his temper from the constant smile that underlies his self-confidence and patience. 
This summer, Elijah is applying what the Club has taught him to his job as junior summer staff at the Fettig Youth Campus. Elijah is passing on those life-changing lessons to the next generation of Club members. He knows that the young members are watching him, and he is to be a mentor. Elijah says the younger kids are reaching out to him through Facebook and in person and he knows he’s helping them. “It’s a good feeling to have people look up to you – as a basketball player and as a person.”
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