The first male in his family to graduate high school, a cancer survivor, and now a college student majoring in computer science. There’s nothing Rickey can’t accomplish — and he thanks his Club for helping him carve a new path to a great future.
I guess you could say I broke a family curse. At least, that’s what my family called it. Before me, no other male on my mother or father’s side had ever graduated from high school. I remember learning that news as a kid and wondering, “What does that mean for my future?” I’ll admit it, I was scared.
Growing up, all I knew was that I didn’t want to follow the same path. But it’s hard to become someone you’ve never seen. Before joining the Boys & Girls Club, I hadn’t given college much thought. But that all changed when I started taking classes through the Club’s Workforce Readiness program during my senior year of high school.
When I first came to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, I never thought I’d learn as much as I did. But soon after joining, I started taking STEM classes through the Juice+ Technical Training Center (TCC). That first class was so interesting — talk about brainteasers! Almost every week, our instructor would share presentations on different areas of study, fields of work and potential career opportunities. But my favorite part was the hands-on activities we did. I’ll never forget building a robotic car — that really inspired me and showed me how much I enjoyed engineering.
My Club helped me learn so much that I didn’t know I needed to learn — especially when it came to my interests. After continuing with classes at the TCC, I realized I was most interested in computer science. There’s just something amazing about everything you can do with a computer — it’s like a super genius. If it weren’t for my Club, I wouldn’t have been able to explore all that STEM has to offer and identify my passion for computer science — I’m grateful for that.
Another thing my Club gave me was the encouragement to realize my true potential. Just a few years ago, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a type of cancer that affects your lymphatic system. The treatment wasn’t that hard on me, but it made me realize that I could do better for the world while I was here. Thankfully, my cancer is in remission, and I got that opportunity — I want to make a living and give back to my hometown one day. My Club also helped me realize that in order to do that, I did want to go to college.
Ms. Jackie was my instructor in my employability skills class, and out of all the staff at the Club, I have to say, she pushed me the hardest — she’s why I’m in college today. When I first decided that college was for me, I had no scholarships or direction. Ms. Jackie guided me through the application process, helped me get scholarships, and, above all, believed in me. She still checks in with me now and then to make sure I’m doing well.
This fall I started as a freshman at Rust College in Mississippi, an HBCU (historically Black college or university), and I’m majoring in computer science. I love it and can’t imagine my life any differently. Right now, I’m focused on passing all of my classes, but it feels great to know that I’m pursuing a major that will open up a world of possibilities for me when I complete my degree. If it weren’t for the Workforce Readiness program at my Club, I wouldn’t have known computer science could be a path for me.
Looking back on my life, I have gone through a lot of hardship, but I’ve always been brave. I want other Club kids who come from a similar background as me to know that no matter what it is you want to do, you can do it. You can create your own legacy. While you’re at the Club, you’ll have opportunities, and doors will open. You just have to be brave enough to walk through them.
Starting as early as age 6, Boys & Girls Clubs help kids like Rickey find and explore their passions and interests, develop hard and soft skills and apply knowledge in real-world settings like college or career so they can become anything they can dream.
Your donation to support programs at Boys & Girls Clubs helps more youth develop the confidence, courage and critical life skills necessary to change their lives and the world for the better.