Overcoming the OddsVolunteer Spotlight: Joseph Clark
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor leads by example. Volunteer Joseph Clark demonstrated that this summer during the Night Court at the Teen Center. His story teaches our teen members that they, too, can become what they dream.
Joseph had many friends growing up. Some were good influences, some were most definitely not. Through it all, he wanted nothing more than to make his family proud. “Having the respect of my family meant a lot to me,” says Joseph. “I wasn’t always a leader, but I had something to prove.” And prove it, he did. His family was there when he walked across the stage to earn his high school diploma, and again when he earned his Associates Degree from Lake Michigan College. He is now pursuing his Bachelors Degree at Siena Heights University.
Joseph says he always wanted to give back. He had that chance this past summer as a mentor for the Night Court project, a weekly after-hours program at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center providing a hot meal, mentoring, group activities, and a basketball tournament on Friday nights. Joseph volunteered to coach a team and talk with teens both on and off the basketball court.
Competitive by nature, Joseph teaches the kids the importance of being self-motivated and pushing yourself to be the very best you can be. He was fortunate to have that role model in his sister and, striving to the best, he held himself to a higher standard of success every day.
Joseph reflected on his time at Night Court, saying, “I worked closely with one of the young men. Eventually, I saw he came to the realization that being himself was enough. That was all it took for him to fit in and gain the respect of his peers. I knew I had a part in changing a life. That feeling is amazing.”
One of the group activities about truth particularly resonated with Joseph. The teens stood on a wall and took a step every time they were willing to tell the truth about family, life, school, and health until they could see how honesty would help them get further down the road of life. The activity made Joseph reflect on things he was hesitant to admit and to share when he was a teenager. It taught him an important lesson about how to relate to the young people in the program.
Joseph hopes to encourage the young men and women to face every struggle and not let excuses hold them back, regardless of the challenges they face. He wants teens to use those challenges to fuel their motivation to accomplish great things. Joseph hopes to see the program continue next summer to reach even more teens as a supervised alternative to being on the streets.
“This experience has made me more committed than ever to achieving my dreams. I’m grateful for that,” says Joseph.