Club kid and Youth of the Year finalist, Faith, overcame years of self-doubt to reignite one of her greatest passions and talents. Now she’s paying it forward to the next generation.
"Time's up," said my second-grade teacher. With 0.05 seconds left on the clock, my dreams of becoming a writer were shattered because I couldn't cut it on a timed reading test. I wish I could go back and tell that little girl: "don't give up."
Our beliefs around who we are and what we're capable of can change the course of our lives. That's why it's so essential to build kids up. For years, I believed I wasn't good enough to be a writer just because I couldn't pass a high-pressure reading test… at 7 years old. But what if I had someone there to encourage me instead of allowing me to believe I wasn't good enough? That one experience shifted everything, and I gave up on writing and decided to pursue STEM. I thought, "If I can't write, I'll immerse myself in math and science."
But deep down, I couldn’t get writing out of my mind.
Years passed before I decided to start writing again. But thanks to the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, I took another chance. Through my Club, I got involved with Andover Bread Loaf, a creative writing program, where I was able to explore my creativity in a safe and positive place.
At the Club, I could dive into a world where anything was possible, and I was inspired to express myself differently than I could at school. Eventually, I became a writing leader for Andover and taught younger Club kids all the lessons I learned — let me tell you, it's incredible to see how a fourth grader's mind works!
My Club mentors helped me build my confidence and realize that I am worthy of studying the humanities, I am a creative person, and I am good at English — no matter what anyone or any test says. As a college student, now I’m studying political science to one day become a lawyer but I continue to help with the program since it profoundly impacted my life. I want to pay it forward to the next generation because I know how much it means to have someone believe in you.
Even though I've uncovered a more confident version of myself, I wasn’t always that way. As a younger Club kid, I'll never forget looking up at the wall and seeing pictures of all the Club kids that came before me who made it past regionals for Youth of the Year — the top honor a Club kid can receive. From the first time I looked at those photos, I knew I wanted to be one of them. Yet, deep down inside, I felt like I could never make it that far.
But my Club mentors always saw my potential, even when I couldn't. They pushed me to aspire to do more and be more — to make bold moves towards my dreams and to reach for Youth of the Year. Throughout my middle and high school years at my Club, I joined character and leadership programs like Torch Club and Keystone Club, growing my confidence as a leader. All the while, I kept writing, practicing public speaking, interning and being a role model to my peers.
My journey to possibly becoming Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth of the Year has been unexpected but very exciting. First, I made it to the local level, representing my Club, then the state level here in Massachusetts, and then I was named Northeast Region Youth of the Year. Now, I'm patiently waiting till October, when I take the stage to see who will be named National Youth of the Year. This road hasn't been easy, but I've been championed along the way by Club staff and friends.
As I look back on my life from being a child whose hopes of being a writer were crushed to where I am today — an accomplished writer, public speaker, advocate and college student — I want every girl to know this:
People will tell you to get your head out of the clouds and to strive for more “realistic goals.” But don’t listen to them, because you, yes you, have a fighting spirit. You’re in control of your dreams — no one else.
A lot of us girls want to make a difference in the world. If you have that fire and passion, run with it. You might not always fit in, but differences are what makes us people. And you are amazing.
Research shows that when girls have the right people to back them up, they can make bold moves and break down barriers to achieve anything they can dream. When you make a donation to support the programs at Boys & Girls Clubs, you help more girls like Faith develop the confidence, courage and critical life skills necessary to change the world.
As the largest providers of body confidence and self-esteem education in the world, our partners at the Dove Self-Esteem Project have reached 82 million young people across 150 countries to date with no cost, proven tools. Visit Dove.com/selfesteem to learn more about their mission to reach 250 million young lives by 2030 so that the next generation can realize their full potential without being held back by appearance anxiety.