My name is Raymond Morales. I am 17 years old and have been a member of the Harris Saxon Club in Deltona for 8 years.
My mother moved to New York City with her new husband and left me with my Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle when I was two years old. Since then, my Grandmother has raised me. Six months ago, my mother, step-father and two half-brothers moved back to Florida.
I have been the man of my house since my Uncle Jose passed away 5 years ago. I help my Aunt, by taking care of my 10 year old cousin who has autism and I help my Grandmother with chores around the house. Soon after I started elementary school, I met Mr. Marcel, the Unit Director at Harris Saxon Boys & Girls club. He became the most positive ma le model i n my life. Then when I was in 8th grade, Mr. Marcel passed. I felt completely lost.
Both men who I had looked up to and wanted to be like when I grew up were gone. My world was upside down. I continued to come to the club. It helped me to get away from the pain; I could disappear in the crowd. I learned to use the lessons Mr. Marcel taught me to become a better man and a leader instead of a follower. Within a few months I was the most active I had ever been in the club. I started teaching the younger boys how to better themselves. I wanted to help give kids the most important thing in life: a chance. Today I am a constant staple in the club. I am currently a Senior at Pine Ridge High School. I have also received a full scholarship to college from OurChildren First.
My story could have ended differently if it wasn't for the Boys & Girls Club. With the grief of losing my two male role models, I needed a place to grieve and just hide out for a while. While many young men in my situation would have chosen drugs, alcohol and/or to run away, I chose to grieve in a positive way. The Boys & Girls Club was there for me. They are making a difference for me and hundreds of other young people every day.
My club has made me a better person. I am able to give back to others who may have a harder life than me or are in a rough patch. I come every day to teach the lessons the staff have taught me. I know the club has given me hope for a better future. I hope to show other youth and our community that kids do matter. Because of the love and support I have received from my club members and all of the staff at Boys & Girls Club, I am able to be a responsible and caring person and give back to my community.