"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Thinking back onto my upbringing at the Daniel A. Cotter Club
I think about how the club has helped benefit me in so many ways. Not only is the club a part of me as a person, but it is also a part of me spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Without the proper support from my Boys & Girls club I can honestly say that I do not know where I would be standing today.
At the young age of ten I was sexually molested by a close family member. When I was faced with this obstacle I was unsure of how to handle my difficult situation. I did not have any close family members to talk to, but I did have the Boys & Girls club to rely on as my refuge. Every day I attended the club my mind escaped all of the commotion that I dealt with at home. Because I was highly engaged in every program, I was able to release all of the tension and pressure that I kept buried inside me.
I eventually became strong enough to confess my dark secret to my mother after a staff member, Marlon Finley, noticed a change in my behavior. When he noticed the troublesome fear in my eyes he informed me that the only way to face whatever it was that was bringing me down was to talk it over with a trustworthy adult. He helped me realize that I wasn’t going through this alone and that he was there for me.
Since then, I have learned how to cope with my situation and look at it from a positive point of view. I’ve realized that my story is someone else’s also, so I do not expect to receive any sorrow but gratitude for being able to share my story. Any other person in my shoes may have given up a long time ago but I refuse to do so. I like to share my story because it has helped me transition into the beautiful diamond I am on the inside, that was once only considered an ordinary rock.
There are various situations that I’ve overcame with assistance from staff members, but this one is the most significant. It has changed my whole outlook on life itself. I have realized that my situation could have been worse and that I am truly blessed. I am a proud member of the Daniel A. Cotter Club Boys & Girls Club and I forever will be. Without their support I do not know where I would be today, however I can tell you that this fall I will be attending Central State University in Ohio on a full tuition scholarship.
From a letter received December 2012: "The fall semester of 2012 was a magnificent semester. I was completely dedicated to my classes and even though I have not received my final grades, I feel very confident that I will earn an "A" in every class. I calculated my mid-term grades and I had "A's" in all of them with high percentages.
As in most recent years, I was the lead banker at the Chicago Poker Open benefitting General Wood Club. I provided training to the Ice-girls from the Chicago Blackhawks (that was fun!). I also helped during Gen. Wood's haunted house event and at its dinner give-away in December.
I was also involved in Tau Sigma, the honor society for transfer students and recently received a $1,500 scholarship through the program! We did some community service at Children of Peace School. Using Junior Achievement material, we conducted five lessons on how the economy works and how education is essential to succeed.
I recently received an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society. I was chosen for membership because I am in the top 15 percent of my class."
B.S. Business Management 2013
University of Illinois at Chicago
In addition to the perils of drugs and violence associated with growing up on the West Side, Yolandis overcame significant tragedy in 2009 after surviving a near fatal car crash from which she was thrown through the windshield. After taking a semester off to recover, she returned to school and activities with renewed focus, realizing that she was given a second chance at life. She has maintained a 3.9 GPA, has worked part-time to help pay the family’s bills, has volunteered at a local hospital and has assisted her grandmother who was struck by a heart attack last year. She has become an active teen role model at the Dr. Martin Luther King Club.
"Most of the students I have grown up with are either locked-up in prison or dead. My Club gives me hope that there is a brighter tomorrow for teenagers who got lost on the road to greatness. I know that when I walk through those doors, I am surrounded by staff who push us to believe that if we follow our dreams, anything is possible. I not only enjoy the fact that I have others to support and believe in me, but I can now say the most important quality that I have gained over the years is to believe in myself."
Zoraida Sambolin, NBC5 Chicago News Anchor and former Logan Square Club Member
"Being a member of the McCormick Boys & Girls Club has been a great experience for me. Since I started at the Club 11 years ago, I have been taught to be polite, caring and helpful. The staff has been a great substitute for my mom when she is not around. I have stumbled but the Club is always there to show me how important it is to make good choices. I feel empowered to reach my goals without the fear of failure."
"Living in the Little Village community is tough for a teenager. Almost every block has gang members that make me feel uncomfortable and not safe. The Club has offered me and other teenagers a safe place to enjoy our youth. The programs keep me busy and make me a better person. The workshops make me think twice about the decisions that I make. My freshman year was not my best academically, but a staff member noticed and opened my eyes to change the way I was or I would eventually regret it. The staff always offered me the best advice, and I know I can count on them if I need anything."
"Going to the Club everyday afterschool allowed me to see life with a different perspective. The staff members supported my goals in graduating from high school, planning for college, and creating amazing opportunities for myself. They taught me that it was okay to live my life following my own path and not someone else’s, leading me to become much more than just another teen statistic. For a majority of my life I have lived in a gang infested area and I saw many of my friends fall victim to their ways. The Club has been a safe haven for me: a home away from home."