Stories from The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley
The most important assets to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley are our people. Be it our staff, our volunteers, or our members, we are a group of people who care about making our community as great as it can be. We are so lucky to have an impact on the lives of the kids and teens in our community and we are proud to share their stories. Visit this page regularly to read more from both our staff and members as they take their journey with our Clubs and tell us all about it!
Aaron Chapman – Former Member and Gala Speaker
In 1997, Aaron was born and spent the first eleven years of his life in Las Vegas, Nevada. He grew up in a neighborhood plagued with drugs and gang violence, but despite this, he was happy and relatively safe with his family. After moving from apartment to apartment, his parents finally were able to move Aaron and his younger brother into a house. Unfortunately, his parents were not happy in their relationship, fighting so often that Aaron found it easy to fall asleep to the sound of them screaming at each other. After six months in their new home, Aaron fell asleep to this same sound, as he did so often. This time, however, he was woken up by his brother crying and telling him that their fight had escalated, and that his mother was dead. After murdering his wife, Aaron’s father fled, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Shortly after this tragedy, Aaron and his brother moved to California to live with their Aunt and Uncle, who Aaron grew to refer to as his Mom and Dad, since they raised him and took him in. Despite the care of his new guardians, he was obviously traumatized and learning to fit in to the new life that was forced upon him. His grades were slipping, and he was struggling to make sense of such a tremendous loss. His Aunt and Uncle decided to put him in the Rocky & Lon Morton Boys & Girls Club, which he protested, at first.
He resisted attending the Boys & Girls Club because he felt it would just be another social setting where he was forced to be a “normal” kid. One day, he discovered the newly renovated music room at his Club, and his eyes immediately went to the guitar. A new hire, Jake, who was a guitarist himself, was supervising Aaron when something clicked. He realized that Aaron finally felt comfortable and happy when he played the guitar. He began teaching Aaron all the ins and outs of playing the guitar, and of music itself. Jake would bring albums, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and tell Aaron to take them home and listen to them. Aaron would come in the next day and play his favorite songs from the album.
Jake and other staff/volunteers gave Aaron a purpose he had been lacking since moving to California. He became obsessed with music, and along with this purpose came improved grades, a new social circle, and no desire for drugs or other harmful self-medication. He is still a musician today, playing bass guitar for an alt-rock group called Groove Damage. He credits the Boys & Girls Club and its staff with saving his life, or at least giving him the direction he needed to be happy and successful. He has returned to volunteer and pass on his experience to other kids who need guidance. When asked what he would say to any kid or parent who is considering sending their kid to the Boys & Girls Clubs, he said “Just do it, at least give it a try, if it doesn’t work out you can always leave, but just give it a try and see how it can help you.”
Nicki M. – Current member at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley
Growing up, I moved over five times and had to change schools all throughout elementary school. I attended schools that made me feel out place and stood out in a crowd in almost every classroom. My appearance was different than the other kids, I had a different hairstyle, body shape, and most importantly a darker skin color. Kids often made fun of me and made me feel insecure about my overall body image. I remember leaving school crying because one girl made fun of my clothes and said, “Where did you get your clothes from Old Navy? Because they are old and raggedy.” That day I left thinking I didn’t belong at that school. The bullying followed me all throughout elementary school and was a battle I felt I was constantly trying to overcome.
At first, I thought I was going to suffer the same problems I had before but after I started attending the Boys & Girls Club, I realized that if I just opened up and let people see the real me, I would be accepted. I was fortunate to have friends at the Club who stood beside me during the tough times. Throughout middle school I learned different ways to cope with bullying. I learned to believe in myself and build confidence through different programs and activities. Talking to the Club staff about being bullied made a huge difference and allowed the bully to recognize what they were doing wasn’t right. I remember sitting down with the staff member and the bully to talk about why they were saying hurtful comments. This was the first time I interacted and had an open conversation about bullying with the person who was bullying me. I expressed how it their comments had an impact on how I felt and wanted them to know what it was doing to my emotional state. Now, I hold that memory close as I can help kids at the Club who are going through similar situations and have them recognize that their words can have consequences.
A couple weeks ago, I was able to help a young girl who was getting bullied by a boy who was saying hurtful comments. This situation was similar to what I went through, and almost triggered bad memories from middle school. I was able to talk to both separately and explain how words can make all the difference in someone’s life. I had to reinforce to the young girl of her self worth and remind her that she is valued and respected. It felt good knowing that I was able to help her in this situation and be a person she can turn to for advice and support. This made me feel as if I can be the leading role model to the youth here at the Boys & Girls Club.
I am now in a position to overcome bullying by preventing and educating other members about the consequences of their words and actions. I talk to members every day about treating others with respect and kindness. I hope to one day be a motivational speaker and speak to all grades about the concept of bullying and how it can make a negative impact in one’s life.
I never thought I would be working at the Club being in a position that can help middle and elementary school youth. I was asked to apply by a fellow mentor and staff member. After the first interview, I was hired on the spot. Now, I have a different appreciation and respect for working at the Club, knowing that every day I can make an impact in the lives of young girls and boys, as well as prevent any form of bullying. I didn’t think I would fall in love with this type of work and now it is something I cherish and hope to inspire other members to follow in my footsteps.
Liam H. – Current member of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley
Without the Club, I’d be lost. It’s always been a safe place for me to go after school and has helped me build qualities that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve always had a tense relationship with my dad. I’ve had to go to six cases of mediation for the sake of custody. In times where I was unsure what would happen to my life or if I felt threatened by the possibility of my father coming to my house or my school, I knew that I had a safe place to go while my mom was working. Without that support, I wouldn’t be able to focus on my school work. During the summer one year, my dad decided to just show up to the club. He went to the club at Colina, which is where I go during the school year, but during the summer I go to the club at Los Cerritos. When he got there Ms. Anne, the leader of the Colina Club, immediately called Ms. George to warn me that he was coming. Because of this, I was able to prepare mentally and decide whether or not to see him. I chose to see him, but because I was warned I was prepared and ready to see him. After this event, I always knew I was safe because of the staffs’ care for my safety, and I knew they had my back. Thanks to the secure environment of the BGC, I can do my best without worrying about an unexpected visit from my dad. I am achieving all A’s in all honors-level classes thanks to the sense of security.
At the BGC I have been able to fit in comfortably in the new school. I have been able to develop qualities that I otherwise wouldn’t have. In one of the many activities provided, Torch club, I have been gifted the ability to improve my leadership skills and help the community. Since I was four years old, I have wanted to be a cardiologist to save people’s lives, and by providing programs like Torch Club I have been able to help others as I’ve always wanted. I’ve caroled for the seniors, written letters to the soldiers risking their lives for us, and helped fund education for two girls in India. In Torch Club I was also given the resource to improve my leadership skills. I’ve learnt how to guide a team by leading Snack Shack. I have had to learn how to take responsibility, and organize activities. Not only have I been given the ability to help my community and improve leadership skills, but I’ve also been able to participate in fun activities that I wouldn’t have been without the Boys and Girls Club. I’ve been able to participate in classes such as 3D printing, Dungeons and Dragons, and Tech Thursdays. The 3-d printing
class actually inspired me to take the advanced computer class in school, and I ended up winning an animation award. I couldn’t have done this without the support of the Boys and Girls Club.
The Boys and Girls club has clearly created a safe and welcoming environment for me. Where I can stay safe after school, like many others, and build qualities that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I don’t have to worry about anything that is happening at home, I can just hang out with my friends and participate in activities. I can relax and be a kid.
Iverson R. – Current member of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley
What does the Boys & Girls Club mean to me? The Boys and Girls Club means a great deal to me. The Club is a great place to hang out with friends thanks to the fun games, the cool decorations and the very nice staff who are happy to be with you. One of my favorite things at the Boys and Girls Club are the activities they plan to make the Club a better place, including the fun field trips. Also, the Boys and Girls Club is always open on the school breaks so we can come and have some fun instead of staying home.
However, for me, the Club is more than just a place to hang out. The Club has changed my way of living and turned me into who I am today. For example, when I came to the United States in 6th grade, I did not speak English. Going to the Club helped me learn English fast thanks to the staff helping me make friends and practice my English. The Boys and Girls Club made it possible for me to achieve one of my goals of getting good grades by helping me with my homework with a lot of patience and calm. I was having a hard time getting things finished since I was still learning to speak English. The staff members explained things to me very well without needing a translator. They also motivated me to keep working hard since I wanted to give up all the time because of my lack of English knowledge and patience. Clearly, the Staff members at the Boys and Girls Club are what makes the club a great place to be thanks to the love and patience they have for the students.
The Boys and Girls Club also means a lot to me because I have made memories with the staff and my friends which have changed my character. There are some memories I won’t forget, both happy and sad, including the death of Ro, one of our staff when I was in 6th grade who meant a lot to me. Ro motivated me in the art of music and was the nicest person I have ever met in my life. Also, the day Nate left for another job has marked me because he was loved by everyone and was always there when we needed him. Nate meant a lot to me since he helped with both my homework and problems that were going on my life. In addition, as my first ukulele teacher, he inspired me to master the beautiful sound of the ukulele. Thanks to him, I improved my English language, learned a new instrument, and became a leader at school which helped me create the Ukulele Chord Club where I teach other students how to play the ukulele so they can have fun learning songs they like and making new friends.
Thanks to the Boys & Girls Club, I have become more confident and tried to help in my community. I am involved in a leadership group named WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) at Colina where we try to make our school a better place for others who need help to adapt to the new environment. We also support students who are victims of bullying, the ones who are shy and need help to make friends, and the ones who are struggling in school. We fight to make our school a fun and safe community for everyone.
The confidence I got from going to the Club helped me become a better mentor. The Boys and Girls Club changes everyone who goes there, thanks to the kind staff members we have at our Johnson Club. The memories and experiences I have from the Boys & Girls Club have brought me to where I am today: from a shy English beginner to a strong student and a great leader. The Club has given me hope for my future dream of being the first in my family to go to college.
Michelle H. – Current member of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley
I began my first year at the Boys and Girls Club in the summer of 2010. I was nine years old, and my best friends’ parents and my mother made the choice to sign my friends and l up for summer camp at the Boys and Girls Club because we were growing out of the day care camp that we had attended since kindergarten. In the beginning, the adjustment to the Boys and Girls Club was more difficult for me than it was for my friends because the surroundings and atmosphere were new to me; my friends, however, had older siblings that had already been at the club and were able to fit in instantly.
Despite a rocky start at the club, I grew to enjoy spending my time there because there were many fun activities and exciting travel camps. Furthermore, the director and staff were nice, and they always made me feel welcome. By the end of that summer, I had adapted to the new environment and had such a great time at the Boys and Girls Club that I decided to return to the Club the following summers and after school.
I have now been with the club for almost eight years. In addition to summer camps, I attended the after school program offered at the club during my middle school years. The after school program was very beneficial to me as it provided many educational and recreational activities. The Boys and Girls Club also had a tutoring service available during the Club’s Power Hour in which members were required to do their homework or study. The tutoring program was valuable to me because I was having a difficult time with my classes.
During my first year and a half in middle school, I struggled with focusing on the lessons taught in school. This was contributed to my battle with Graves’ disease at that time. As a result of my inability to concentrate, I needed assistance to get on track with school. Being at the club after school, participating in Power Hour, and getting tutored by the staff helped me tremendously with my academic success and resulted in a great improvement in my grades. It also helped me receive recognitions for Student of the Month, Honor Roll and six academic achievement awards in the last two years of middle school.
I have had a wonderful experience at the Boys and Girls Club over the years. I have made countless memories over the years as l have spent many summers at the club and after school. As a member, I felt the club was a great place for me to hang out with my friends and the staff. I continuously made new friends, and I found that the club provided great opportunities to meet new people. The friends and staff from the club are like my second family now. Everyone cares for and supports one another.