High school senior and Boys & Girls Club member Brian A. shares the obstacles he has overcome to get to this moment and why his graduation is not cancelled.
I know it’s just a graduation cap — cardboard wrapped with some shiny blue fabric. But to me, it’s the door to a future many people never believed I’d open.
I grew up in Columbia, South America, and had quite a traumatic childhood. I was always in the streets doing things I shouldn’t be to escape my life. Most of my family and friends doubted me. When my mom, brothers and I came to the United States, I didn’t speak any English. I got bullied at school because of my accent, and my confidence was low.
Arriving at the Boys & Girls Club changed my life. It was the most impactful thing that has ever happened to me.
On my first day at the Club, it felt like a place where I immediately belonged. All I heard was positivity from mentors, staff and other Club members. They made sure we had food to eat and clean clothes. When they noticed I was struggling with communicating because of my poor English, they worked with me on public speaking to help my communication skills flourish.
In a word, the Boys & Girls Club became my new family.
I haven’t had great role models in my life. That changed when I met Miss CeCe. She took me under her wing at the Boys & Girls Club and gave me opportunities I could never have imagined. As my mentor, she introduced me to robotics and architecture, engaged me in programs to learn how to be a leader in my community, helped me secure my first internship and get scholarships to go to college. Miss CeCe and my Boys & Girls Club family wanted me to be successful, believed I would be and helped me make it a reality.
One of the things Miss CeCe has taught me is to keep pushing and never let the world bring me down. It would be easy to dwell on the negative — the past I came from and the current disappointment of COVID-19 affecting my graduation celebration. But Miss CeCe always reminds me that no matter how bad things can be, I must stay focused on my goals and never let anything or anyone change that.
I've been thinking about my graduation cap for a long time. I decided to decorate it to look like a galaxy. It represents the idea of infinite possibilities to explore and continuing to push myself. Within the galaxy is the word “familia,” which means family in Spanish. Family is important to me. I have the colors of Columbia to represent where I came from, but I have the Boys & Girls Club staff on my cap because they’re my familia. There are also spaceships and astronauts because I want to become an aerospace engineer.
In the fall, I will attend the Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer. If I never came to the Boys & Girls Club, I wouldn’t think any of what I’m doing now was even achievable.
I’m excited to be part of the Class of 2020. My cap shows my whole life and the great future that’s possible in a single square.
Brian A. has been a member of the A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club in Metro Atlanta for the past five years. He was a 2019 Youth of the Year and will begin college at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA in the fall.
Graduation may look different this year, but it is not cancelled for all the Club seniors who’ve beaten the odds to get here. As we continue to help make graduation possible for more kids, help celebrate this year’s graduates by signing their graduation card.