Story and Photos by Bill Sterling
Special to the Eastern Shore Post –
Destiny Carrington carries herself with a confidence that she says she gained as a member of the Eastern Shore Boys & Girls Club.
“I wholeheartedly love my Boys & Girls Club. They have been at the forefront of my growth,” says the 17-year-old Northampton High School senior who will attend Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., next fall. She plans to major in biology with the intent to enter a nursing program and become either a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
More pressing for Carrington at the moment is representing the Eastern Shore Boys & Girls Club in the Southeast Virginia’s Youth of the Year competition in Norfolk, which was underway Thursday as this week’s Eastern Shore Post was being finalized.
Judged on communication skills, teen leadership, community involvement, and other qualities, candidates from Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Southeast Virginia vie for the title and major scholarship awards. Carrington prepared for the competition by completing a teen mentorship program with Broderick Custis, a Boys & Girls Club counselor.
Carrington, who lives in Birdsnest and is the daughter of Natasha Carrington and Terronke Garris, says just going through the process of preparing for the competition has helped her immensely. “I feel I have grown more confident and comfortable speaking in front of people,” says Carrington, who recently addressed the Boys & Girls Club board.
Carrington first came to the Boys & Girls Club seven years ago. “Like most kids, my journey through the Boys & Girls Club ranks started in the summer. We had heard it was a great place to be, and my Mom didn’t want me and my siblings in the house all summer. Mrs. (Kathy) Custis advertised it as a safe and fun place to be, and she was right because my siblings and I never wanted to go home. The club has offered me endless opportunities to grow and have fun being a kid.”
According to Carrington, trips to Busch Gardens, Norfolk Tides baseball games and, most of all, retreats at Camp Silver Beach were highlights that allowed her to make new friends and gain confidence.
Helping Youth Grow Is Destiny’s Fun Now
Carrington has now stepped into a new role at the club, volunteering and offering guidance and mentoring to younger boys and girls. “Fun to me now is Mrs. Custis assigning me a task and at the end of the day, hearing her say, ‘Job well done.’ I now see the club from a totally different perspective. I see all the hard work that goes into growing and impacting kids while making it safe and fun,” she said.
One example of Boys & Girls Club members having the opportunity to grow in confidence was a recent event held at the club headquarters at the Mary N. Smith Cultural Center in Accomac. The program was presented by the Boys & Girls Club parent committee celebrating Black History and was titled “Black Excellence.” With approximately 80 people in attendance for the program, about 30 of the Boys & Girls Club members made brief presentations, many taking on the persona of Black role models such as Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Serena Williams, or Michael Jordan. Another highlight of the night was a presentation by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society, “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality.”
Javon Smith, a Boys & Girls Club advisory board member who served as emcee for the event, said it was amazing to see how the club members, ranging from elementary to middle school students, would be nervous and hesitant about speaking before an audience minutes before they were to go on stage, then step forward and be poised and confident as they delivered the information on the various personalities and projects they had researched.
“They totally surprised themselves, and you could see their self-esteem growing right before your eyes,” said Smith, who visits the club and mentors the youth almost daily after his day ends at a nearby CPA office.
“Everyone knows about the Boys & Girls Club being a fun and safe place to be after school each day and all day during the summer months, but academics and communication skills are important aspects of the experience at the club,” said Smith. “Destiny’s story is inspiring and has come full circle from being a member to being a volunteer to now heading to college. We are proud to say that the Boys & Girls Club played a role in her development. We want to encourage more teenagers to join the club because we have amazing programs and opportunities for those who need help with their educational development and transition into adulthood. We also encourage other teens to join to be mentors to our younger members to help with their educational development as well.”
To register or for more information, contact Boys & Girls Club Director Kathy Custis at 757-709-3038 or email email@example.com.
To make a financial contribution to the club, send a check payable to the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Shore and mail to P.O. Box 101, Melfa, VA 23410.