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Boys and Girls Club shows phenomenal growth
homecoming for web
Renaldo Leon, left, a mentor at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Boys and Girls Club, takes a few minutes to catch up with 10th-grader Demetries Key. - photo by JENNY LYNN ANDERSON/Special
As Renaldo Leon stands in the middle of the Boys and Girls Teen Center on this Monday afternoon, he constantly checks and rechecks the whereabouts of the teenagers. Like a mother hen, his eyes dart to and fro, taking in the perpetual motion of the 100-plus children playing and socializing.
    “Can you follow me over here for a minute?” he asks.  We travel to a supply closet to retrieve a pool table rack. A moment later he is setting up the pool table and darts off again to check on a boys’ basketball game.
    There’s no doubt this 22-year-old takes his job seriously. And there’s a good reason. Just five years ago he himself was a member of the Boys and Girls Club.
    “I want to give back to them what was given to me when I was a student at the Club,” Leon says.
    During his teenage years he was named Youth of the Year in Bulloch County at the Boys and Girls Club. This commendation goes to a youth who volunteers their time, has a good, positive attitude, is active in school and helps others at the club. When he was honored, Leon traveled to Boys and Girls Club state competition where he earned second place and received scholarship money for college.
    The Georgia Southern student majoring in communication arts recalls the day his mother signed him up for the club.
    “I thought it was an after school program, but the staff were like big brothers to me and people actually cared about me here,” Leon says.  “It was life changing and it was like having a whole other family.”
    Now the university junior gives back to the club five days a week by working part time serving as a mentor to the youth.
    “Our staff of six that works in the teen center really care about the kids. We watch, mentor and talk with the teenagers,” Leon explains. “The hardest part for me is when kids tell me they cannot come to the Boys and Girls Club anymore. You don’t want to lose the member because you lose the chance to help the child.”
    Research shows that unsupervised after-school time is linked with an increased likelihood of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use. “Latchkey” children are also more likely to experience accidents and injuries, as well as perform lower in school.
    In the United States, approximately 26 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds and 7 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds regularly spend time unsupervised after school.
From 4-8 p.m., Monday through Friday, a total of 100 to 200 teens make the Bulloch Boys and Girls Club center their home. During the first two hours, students complete their homework assignments and are provided a nutritious snack.
    On this particular day the menu consisted of ravioli, niblets corn, cheese nips and lemon cookies. Tutorial services are also provided for free.  
    Demetries Key, a 15-year-old student at Statesboro High School, is one of many students who enjoy their time with Leon.
    “He is a nice guy. Anytime you need someone, Renaldo is right here. He keeps everything organized and flowing in the afternoon and wants everyone to have a good day at the Club,” Key says.  
    Key recalls a time Renaldo helped him with some guys that were troublemakers.  
    “I didn’t know all the kids when I began coming here three years ago and he settled things with them that I couldn’t do myself,” he explains. “From that time on, I trusted Renaldo and knew he was my friend.”
    “Renaldo’s an outstanding young man,” says Boys and Girls Club Director Mike Jones. “He’s an excellent role model for the members as someone who has overcome challenges and who has put himself in a position to succeed.”  
    With an average daily attendance of 750, the Boys and Girls Club has experienced phenomenal growth since opening its doors in 2001. In addition to grants and program fees, the Club is funded by local donations and United Way contributions.  
    The Boys and Girls Club is one of 20 United Way agencies in Bulloch County.  If you would like to give to United Way, send your tax deductible contribution to United Way of Southeast Georgia, 515 Denmark St., Suite 1100, Statesboro, GA  30458.
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