My childhood was mostly fun, but it was also filled with traumatic moments. Growing up in a Southeast DC neighborhood I faced many adversities. I witnessed gun violence and drug abuse at a very young age. Domestic violence and drug abuse were not uncommon in the homes of my neighborhood. I never let those circumstances keep me indoors. I went outside to play and made the best of it.
In 2005 William C. Smith gave us just what we needed. THEARC opened and I joined The Boys & Girls Club. I was there all day, leaving no time to be in the streets. THEARC and the BGC kept me out of harm’s way. I loved it! There was plenty to do including sports and field trips. This reduced the neighborhood beefs because it brought us all together in a positive environment. We were still competing, but now doing it through sports and activities; not violence. The Boys & Girls Club saved a lot of us Southeast kids. And continues to do so. We felt supported throughout the years as we went from middle school students to graduating from high school.
Years after leaving The Boys & Girls Club I ran into Keith Cook and told him I was looking for employment. Keith worked at THEARC. He invited me to come see him at work so he could introduce me to Nolvert Garcia. I waited 2 hours to speak with Nolvert. From that first moment that I met Nolvert, I knew that he was cool. He said, “I heard you waited 2 hours for me?” I replied “Yep”. Next thing I know he was giving me a tour around the building and just like that I was home again; this time for employment. I worked under Emery for about 6 months before they gave me a lead role at our new building: THEARC West. Emery taught me so much in my first 6 months.
A little over a year after being hired at THEARC, something very tragic happened to me. I lost my only brother due to gun violence. Aujee was a professional boxer. He was very driven. He gave me high hopes. My brother kept me focused and wanting more out of life. Aujee often traveled to different states and countries for boxing, and he took me with him. He showed me a life outside of DC. Although he was younger than me, he was my inspiration. When Aujee lost his life I felt hopeless, I didn't know how to maintain. Luckily, I had a very strong support system including every partner organization at THEARC especially the staff at Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR). Nolvert reached out to me daily to ask how I was. His words held me together. He reassured me of my inner power and helped me recognize my own strength. From this experience, I’ve learned about the person that I am and the man I would like to become. I am driven and I will succeed.
THEARC is not only a workplace for me (am part of the janitorial staff), but home – a place where I walk the halls and see family, I have bonded with the boys at Bishop Walker. I even think one of the boys will be our next president. Apple Tree recruited my daughter Bella, but she was already enrolled in school. My daughter gets her annual check-ups at Children’s National Health Center. My dream is that Bella will dance with the Washington Ballet. And the Phillips Collection. You will see my face on their flyer. Everything I do at THEARC and every partner organization I have connected with has helped me in so many different ways. My family and I are a reflection of THEARC’s purpose: to be a home for kids and adults like me. Running for BBAR-THEARC, is a way for me show my gratitude for the life changing experience they’ve given me. Your donation is much appreciated.