“I felt lost and confused when I was younger. When I got here, I actually felt loved and cared about.”
For Iz’Shana, the Boys & Girls Club of Newark is home.
Since first attending BGCN at the age of six, Iz’Shana has grown up in the Club, engaging with our various afterschool and summer programming. She has been involved in BGCN’s Teen Center activities since 2014. She loves coming to BGCN, spending time in the Teen Center, participating in our dance and music programming, getting active in the gym, and going on Club trips.
Through the Teen Center, Iz’Shana has taken part in numerous professional development experiences. Last year, she went to Grace West Manor, a housing facility for senior citizens in which her own grandmother resides, with other BGCN Teen Members. The experience pushed her out of her comfort zone. Iz’Shana has taken her service through BGCN’s Teen Center a step further, acting as this year’s president of BGCN’s Keystone Club, a leadership and service experience that fosters academic success, career exploration and community service. She has also been engaged in professional development programming like CareerLaunch, a job-readiness and career-preparation program.
Over the summer, she participated in the Summer of Service program, a stipended volunteer and professional development experience for selected Teens. During the program, she went on Teen Center volunteer outings to serve food at Newark Penn station, clean up trash in the South Ward, support the work of the Newark Conservatory Hawthorne Ave Farm and the Community Food Bank, while also supporting BGCN by aiding in community outreach events like our Summer Pop-Up Playstreets initiative. She also got to interview a host of prominent Newark figures like Traymanesha Moore, Executive Director of Newark Thrives, Congressman Donald Payne Jr., and Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Newark school board chair. Along with other Summer of Service youth, Iz’Shana took an active role in planning BGCN’s first GirlSport event, a lifestyle, nutrition, and self-care workshop designed to empower girls, and BGCN’s upcoming youth conference, a space for Newark youth to engage in necessary discussions.
Iz’Shana credits BGCN for providing her opportunities like Summer of Service that serve as exciting challenges, as well as fun ones like outings to places like Six Flags Great Adventure. BGCN has allowed her to fulfill her desire of helping her community.
“There were a lot of opportunities for me,” she said.
BGCN has had a profound impact on Iz’Shana — showing her how others should be treated through our staff’s example. She has developed strong relationships with BGCN’s programming staff that has supported her over the years, and shares strong connections with our Director of Community Wellness and Teen Services, Gardan Speights, and Teen Services specialists, Jason Cejour and Jovan Sylvester.
Of the impact that the staff has had on her, she says, “I felt lost and confused when I was younger. When I got here, I actually felt loved and cared about.”
Our staff, with their varied upbringings and career pursuits, inspire her to dream big as she thinks about her own career path. As she rattles off a list of potential careers, which include professions like music, law, medicine, and design, one thing is overwhelmingly clear — Iz’Shana has a great future ahead of her.