Good afternoon. My name is Antonio and I am a senior at Benton Harbor High School, and I am a Youth of the Year representative.
I love attending the Club. I feel that when I am at the Club, I can just be myself. I have developed a family at the Club. I feel that they helped me grow as a person through tough times. I have made lifelong friends that I trust. At the Club, I have a place that I feel like I belong. I am free of pressures.
Since I am a senior, I have to start thinking about what colleges I am planning on attending and, most importantly, my SAT score.
Growing up, things were quite different for me. I didn’t have a mother to spoil me with love and care and to teach me right from wrong. That hurt me emotionally and mentally. I started slacking off in school and my grades dropped dramatically. In my school, all people did was put each other down, they hated to see anybody succeed. Something like crabs-in-a-barrel. In my mind, I was just another black statistic that had nothing going for his life.
Growing up in Benton Harbor, people around me only knew words like FAILURE, DEFEAT and DROPOUT; but, not me. Growing up, my dad always had a million stories about his life that he told me. As I grow up, I will gather stories to tell my kids.
I know that is true because on June 11, 2016, I lost my best friend to Lake Michigan. His name was Tra’Vone Shannon (aka Gizzard). Ever since that day, I promised myself that everything I do is for him. I have been through more than any average teenager should have to go through, but when I am at the Teen Center, all the tears go away and turn into a big smile.
My favorite thing to do at the Teen Center is play basketball and chill with friends. When I’m at the Teen Center, I feel like I learn something new every day, from tying a tie to a firm handshake. Programs like Passport to Manhood with Mr. John and Mr. B.J. helped mold me into the young man I am today.
My favorite basketball player Kevin Durant also encourages me to be great. He once said, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” I have that written on the ceiling in my room, so when I wake up it is the first thing that I see.
In order to be great in life, I have to work hard. The type of person I am means that I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it. The Teen Center helped me realize two things: one is that college is possible; two is to never give up.