Great Futures Start Here
Many Boys & Girls Club members have had distinguished careers. Read about some of our notable alumni (PDF) or watch them in our PSA!
Denzel WashingtonBE INSPIRED
Growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Denzel Washington had parents who were both busy with full-time jobs. After school and most weekends, he needed a place to go. Fortunately, there was a Boys & Girls Club near by. In fact, Denzel recalls, he couldn't wait to be old enough to join.
At the Club, Denzel found support, friendship and encouragement. Field trips opened his eyes to a wider world. The Club also motivated him to strive for a college education.
The two-time Academy Award winner credits the Club - and the staff there - for inspiring him to believe that he could achieve anything he set his mind to. "The Club is where I looked for hope, purpose and direction," Washington says. "That's where I learned to dream - and to think big."
Club: Mt. Vernon, N.Y.Occupation: ActorMember Since: 1962
Jennifer LopezBE EXTRAORDINARY
Actress, singer and dancer: in the entertainment world, this is known as a "triple threat."
Club alumna Jennifer Lopez is all that and more. Lopez honed her performing skills at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx, N.Y., where she was an early member of the Club's renowned performing arts program. Lopez made her feature film debut in 1995. Her 1997 portrayal of slain Tejana singing star Selena won Lopez a Best Actress award from American Latino Media Arts. A popular recording artist, Lopez's Grammy-nominated 1999 debut album, On the 6, sold more than 6 million copies worldwide.
Club Location: New York, N.Y.Occupation: Actress/Singer
General Wesley ClarkBE BRAVE
Wesley Clark grew up in Little Rock, Ark., in the 1950s. Then, as now, it was easy to get in trouble if you didn't have the right place to go. So he went to the Boys & Girls Club.
While there, Wes found two mentors who would have a profound impact on his life. One was the Club director. The other was the swim coach. They had completely different styles, but were equally effective motivating kids. Wes met the challenges both men set.
Later, Wes attended West Point, graduating first in his class. He earned a Rhodes scholarship and an Oxford degree. In the Army, he rose to four-star general and NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He still attributes much of his success to life lessons learned at the Club.
Club Location: Little Rock, Ark.Occupation: General, U.S. Army (retired)Member Since: 1959
Born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in San Pedro, Calif., Misty Copeland says she first learned to harness her creativity at age 11 in a wood shop class at her Boys & Girls Club. Copeland says, “I know it sounds sort of crazy, but I loved that class. For the first time I had an outlet for this creativity I was feeling. It was a whole new world.”
It wasn’t until two years later that Copeland noticed a dance class in the Club gym, but she says she could only watch it at first, too scared to attempt it herself. Before long, the instructor pulled her from the sidelines and, in gym clothes and socks, Copeland took her first ballet class. “I had found my voice,” she says.
At the age of fifteen she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She then began her studies at the Lauridsen Ballet Center. Copeland has studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared American Ballet Theatre’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.
Copeland joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in September 2000 and then became a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001. She was appointed a soloist in August 2007. She has danced as “Kitri” in Don Quixote, and the “Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Clara” in The Nutcracker.
Copeland credits the Boys & Girls Club with helping to launch her career as one of the few African-American classical ballerinas in the world.
John Paul DeJoria
John Paul DeJoria traces both his entrepreneurial drive and passion for environmental activism back to the Variety Boys Club in East Los Angeles. Soon after he joined the Club, John Paul was selling the planters he constructed in the wood shop – his first profit-making endeavor. The Club’s Mount Wilson summer camp provided formative experiences in nature. Co-founder of both John Paul Mitchell Systems and The Patron Spirits Company, John Paul has received numerous honors for philanthropy and green business practices. His generous donation is helping to make possible a complete renovation of the Variety Boys & Girls Club’s 65-year-old building.
Sara Delano RooseveltBE a legacy
A former Club member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Westchester, N.Y, Sara has never ventured too far from the Club. While now a busy mom of three boys, Sara still finds time to serve on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Martin County, Fla.
As a young girl, Sara loved to swim at the Club and through the years has kept her passion for swimming, as well as tennis and yoga. A former fashion merchandiser, she is a literary enthusiast, youth advocate and history buff.
In fact, you might say her interest in history came naturally. Sara is the great-granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, and is named after FDR’s mother.
Club Location: Mt. Kisco, N.Y.Occupation: Mom/Former Merchandiser
Ashanti DouglasBE AMAZING
Nicknamed the "Princess of Hip Hop," Ashanti performed for the very first time on the stage at the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club, where her mother, Tina Douglas, taught dance. She began writing songs in high school. Her 2002 debut album, Ashanti, landed at the #1 spot on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts and received a Grammy for best contemporary R&B album. She has released three hit studio albums since. In 2008, she partnered with jeweler Cartier on a "Love" bracelet benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Recently she recently joined the organization's BE GREAT campaign to inspire young people to pursue their dreams.
Club Location: Glen Cove, N.Y.Occupation: Singer
Cuba Gooding Jr.BE STRONG
Unlike many kids who come to Boys & Girls Clubs, Cuba Gooding Jr. was born into privilege. When he was a kid, his father's band had a hit song that went all the way to No. 2 on the charts.
Then, while Cuba was in fifth grade, his parents divorced. Cuba, his mother and brother drifted from place to place, living in hotel rooms, cars and a series of apartments. Still, there was one place he was always welcome: the Boys & Girls Club.
By high school, Cuba and his friends had become skilled break dancers. The Club gave them a safe haven to practice, far from the streets, gangs, and the daily struggle of getting by. Club staff helped them believe in themselves, set priorities and grow.
Cuba went on to dance during the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. Acting success followed, including Boyz n the Hood, A Few Good Men and an Academy Award for Jerry Maguire.
Club Location: Tustin, CaliforniaOccupation: Actor
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Earvin Johnson Jr. was born in Lansing, Michigan. The fourth of seven children, Johnson loved the game of basketball.
In 1977 Johnson’s high school team won the state championship. His passing and ball-handling skills won him the nickname “Magic.” In his second year at Michigan State University, his team won the national college basketball championship by defeating Indiana State University, a team led by future Boston Celtics star Larry Bird.
Johnson was selected first in the 1979 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He became the first rookie to start in an NBA All-Star game. When the Lakers went on to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers for the NBA championship, Johnson also became the youngest player ever to be named playoff MVP. At six-feet-nine-inches, Johnson became the first big man to excel at point guard, a position usually reserved for smaller players.
During Johnson's twelve years with the Lakers, the team won five championships. He was chosen playoff MVP three times, was a twelve-time All-Star and the 1990 All-Star game MVP, and was named one of the fifty greatest players in the history of the NBA.
As head of Magic Johnson Enterprises, his focus on establishing businesses in underserved communities, training and hiring local residents, and employing local contractors has spurred urban development and raised awareness of the multicultural consumer.
The Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million to community organizations focusing on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, established four HIV/AIDS clinics, and provided college scholarships to more than 800 minority high school students.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is a member of BGCA’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
Kool & The GangBE KOOL
Kool & the Gang include Khalis Bayyan (a.k.a. Ronald Bell), Robert Kool Bell, George Funky Brown, Charles Claydes Smith and Dennis DT Thomas. Five men, united by a common background, a love of music and a Boys & Girls Club: it's the Grammy Award-winning R&B group Kool & The Gang.
They started as musical teenagers in the Jersey City projects, singing in basements and community centers, and rehearsing at the Boys & Girls Club on Ash Street. They made their first album while still in their teens.
Now, 30 years later, the group has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide, working in their own unique style that incorporates jazz, R&B, funk and pop.
Club Location: New JerseyOccupation: R&B Group
“Sugar” Ray Leonard
Ray Leonard was 7 when he joined the Boys Clubs of Washington. Ray developed traits such as pride and independence at the Club. It was also where he first put on boxing gloves – only to put them down after one round with a dominant opponent. At the time, he didn’t know how boxing would shape his future. One of the best boxers in history, Ray won Olympic gold and held the title in five weight classes. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. Today, he gives back through the “Sugar” Ray Leonard Foundation, which supports education, health care and job training.
Mario LopezBE A STAR
Before making a name for himself in entertainment, actor and talk show host Mario Lopez was a wrestler at the Chula Vista Boys & Girls Club, earning Club-wide and state championships.
His first acting role was in the television series AKA Pablo, but it was as high school jock A.C. Slater on the NBC sitcom Saved by the Bell that he would become best known. Subsequent credits include Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story, and the thriller Outta Time, which he also produced.
Lopez also has hosted several television shows, including Pet Star, America's Most Talented Kid, and the talk show The Other Half. Lopez is the current host for Extra.
Club Location: Chula Vista, Calif.Occupation: Actor/Television Host
Ne-YoBE A GENTLEMAN
As a child growing up in the inner-city of Las Vegas, Shaffer Smith -- also known as singer/songwriter/entertainer Ne-Yo -- and his sister Nicole took refuge in Boys & Girls Clubs in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nev. His mom, Loraine, recognized that while young Shaffer was talented, he was also bored and needed an outlet. She turned to her nearby Club.
Now a successful recording artist, Ne-Yo remembers his roots by giving back to the organization which gave him and his family security and fun. In December 2009, Ne-Yo’s nonprofit foundation hosted its 3rd Annual Giving Tour at the Lied Memorial Boys & Girls Club, with the Grammy-Award winner personally delivering MP3 players, bicycles, toys, and big hugs, to more than 500 deserving youth at the Club.
Club Location: Las Vegas, Nev.Occupation: Singer/Songwriter/Entertainer
Edward James Olmos
Actor, producer and director Edward James Olmos’ experiences at the Eastside Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles were so powerful that Olmos served as Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national spokesperson in the 1980s. A star of television’s Miami Vice, Olmos has appeared in such movies as Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver and Selena. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including two Golden Globes and an Emmy, as well as Emmy and Academy Award nominations. A renowned humanitarian, Olmos is a United States Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and executive director for the Lives in Hazard Educational Project, a national gang prevention program.
As a kid, Lucille O’Neal attended the Boys Clubs of Newark, N.J. Today, she is a celebrated author and mother. After raising four children, she returned to school, earning a business degree in 2003 and a Master’s degree in 2005. She founded the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, which supports youth-serving organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. She has helped Boys & Girls Clubs of America with initiatives addressing hunger, literacy and family strengthening. Her son, basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.
Shaquille O'NealBE AN MVP
For Shaquille O'Neal, the Boys & Girls Club was a safe, supportive place to play basketball in his hometown of Newark, N.J. Encouraged by the staff, he became interested in Club programs and activities, especially those involving technology.
In 1998, Shaq pledged $1 million to Boys & Girl Clubs of America to help build technology centers in Clubs. He also collaborated with BGCA and Microsoft to create an online safety program for kids.
During the last decade, Shaq's legacy has grown to include some 2,000 tech centers in Clubs and thousands of tech-savvy young people. Shaq continues to support Boys & Girls Clubs, never forgetting how critical it is to give kids hope and opportunity.
Club Location: Newark, N.J.Occupation: NBA CenterMember Since: 1982
Usher Raymond IVBE ICONIC
Five-time Grammy-winner Usher discovered music at an early age, performing in the church choir and at talent shows. The Highland Park Boys Club gave him the motivation to pursue his dreams and fostered a love of community service. "It's where I developed my love of singing and performing, received help with my homework, and it's where I found a safe place to go after school," said Usher.
Discovered by a talent scout, the singer-songwriter released his self-titled debut album when he was just 14. He's since released six more albums, selling more than 35 million copies worldwide.
In 1999, he founded Usher's New Look, a nonprofit organization that gives youth a firsthand look at the business side of sports and entertainment.
Club Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.Occupation: Singer
As a young man, William “Smokey” Robinson received a helping hand from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan in Detroit, the city where the Motown Sound revitalized American music. At age 13, the budding singer teamed with a group of schoolmates known as The Miracles. Together they recorded such hits as “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Tears of a Clown.” Robinson also wrote songs for other artists, including such classics as “My Girl.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Jimmy RollinsBE a champion
Known as "J-Roll," Jimmy Rollins plays shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2008 World Champions of Major League Baseball.
While he now calls New Jersey home, Rollins hails from a working class neighborhood near Oakland where he attended the Alameda Boys & Girls Club. He spent his younger years playing Babe Ruth and AAU Jr. Olympics baseball. The All-Star player realizes that he serves as a role model for kids.
"We as athletes have to always remember that kids are watching and must lead by example," says Rollins.
Club Location: Alameda, Calif.Occupation: MLB Shortstop
Every time CC Sabathia steps on the mound he brings the heart of a champion to go along with his flame throwing left arm. Standing at 6’7” with his trademark hat cocked slightly to the side, CC’s imposing presence on the mound belies a gentle family-oriented man off it.
Throughout his career, CC Sabathia has been active with numerous community-focused off-the-field activities and non-profit programs. Since moving on to the Milwaukee Brewers and now the New York Yankees, CC has maintained his level of support to organizations and causes that are of personal interest to him. This includes providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to those in need, work with the Boys and Girls Club of his home town of Vallejo and neighboring Oakland, and Strikeouts For Troops which assists wounded war heroes and their families. He has also recently introduced his own nonprofit foundation, “PitCCh In” which is designed to help inner city kids in need through various community outreach programs. More information about CC’s dedication to improving the lives of young people and their communities can be seen at PitCChInFoundation.org
When all is said and done, there’s no reason not to believe that CC can continue to pile up the wins in front of the amazing fans in New York and with one of the most feared lineups in baseball behind him every season.
Martin SheenBE PASSIONATE
Martin Sheen grew up in the South Park district of Dayton, Ohio. The son of immigrant parents from Ireland and Spain, he was one of 10 children - which could sometimes make it tough to get an adult's attention.
But Sheen had something else: he also belonged to a local Boys & Girls Club. Martin and his six brothers spent almost every waking moment there. They also found a mentor in Club director Whitey Gates, who had a tremendous impact on their lives.
To this day, the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor credits the caring Club staff with providing mentorship and guidance when he needed it most.
Club Location: Dayton, OhioOccupation: Actor and ActivistMember Since: 1946
Ruben StuddardBE AN IDOL
Ruben Studdard is a Grammy-nominated pop, R&B and gospel singer who captured global attention as winner of the second season of American Idol. He's also someone with a deep affinity for community - an affinity influenced by time spent at the Boys & Girls Club. "I had some of the best times of my life there," he recalls.
Today, he's deeply involved in helping children develop both artistic and social skills. In 2003, he founded the Ruben Studdard Foundation for the Advancement of Children in the Music Arts. He's also a regular speaker at Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country. "It has special meaning for me," he says. "I'm a product of the Clubs."
Club Location: Birmingham, AlabamaOccupation: Singer
Courtney B. VanceBE FOCUSED
Detroit has seen turbulent times, but some of the worst happened during Courtney Vance's childhood. "The Detroit riots went right by my house," he recalls.
But his parents had high expectations for him, and they found the support they needed at the Boys & Girls Club.
With the guidance of counselor George Browne, Courtney won a scholarship to Detroit's most prestigious prep school. There, he stood out as a top-notch student, as well as captain of the school's football, basketball and track teams. Harvard came next, then Yale Drama School, and eventually, feature films, Broadway plays and two Tony awards.
Still, he says, "I would not be doing what I'm doing today if it wasn't for the Club."
Club Location: Highland Park, MichiganOccupation: Actor
Kerry WashingtonBE A DREAMER
Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club has a reputation for giving a boost to achievers in the performing arts. One shining example: actress Kerry Washington.
Kerry was a regular at the Club, where she immersed herself in the dance program. From that supportive atmosphere, she moved on to New York's prestigious Spence School, and then to the theater program at George Washington University.
At GWU, she also found a perfect outlet for her passion for community service. Working with the local theater community, she helped form "Shades of the Fine Arts," a support system for people of color in the arts.
Washington has won widespread praise for her performance as Della Ray Robinson in Ray. Her other films include Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Fantastic Four and Spike Lee's She Hate Me.
Club Location: Bronx, New YorkOccupation: Actor
As a kid growing up in California, Shaun White knew he could always count on help with his homework and a good meal at his Boys & Girls Club. Born with a congenital heart defect, the professional snowboarder and skateboarder underwent two cardiac surgeries before the age of five. He nevertheless discovered his passion for skateboarding by following his older brother Jesse’s lead. When he took up snowboarding at the age of six, his mother ordered him to slow down, telling him he could only board backwards. The resulting technique, called switching, proved to be an important skill in the advancement of his career.
White has competed in the Winter X-Games since 2002, amassing eight medals including the first four-peat by a male athlete in one discipline, the slopestyle. In 2006, he won the gold medal in the men's halfpipe at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Known for his shock of red hair, he is often called “The Flying Tomato,” or “Il Pomodoro Volante” in Italy, where he is also popular.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, White again won gold. In the finals, White recorded a score of 46.8 on his first run, which proved a high enough score to secure the gold medal without a second run. He performed his second run anyway, as a victory lap, resulting in a record score of 48.4 (out of 50).
As a professional skateboarder, he has gleaned inspiration from legend Tony Hawk, whom White met at age nine. In 2006, White won first place at the Dew Action Sports Tour's Right Guard Open in skateboard vert.
White currently has a full roster of corporate sponsorships and numerous promotional projects in the works, including a snowboarding video game, a clothing line and several snowboarding DVDs.
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