By Nicole Lucas, Development Coordinator, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke
Gilbert Negron was a teenager when he moved to Holyoke from Puerto Rico in 2005 with his family, speaking no English. He first came into the Club not through our youth programming, but attended an evening English class that we offer free of charge to Holyoke residents. For over a year, Gilbert went to school during the day and then attended our ESL classes at night. He would come with his entire family-- two younger siblings, and his mother and father, both of whom are disabled and unable to work fulltime.
Gilbert and his family struggled, but he soon found comfort in the assistance offered by the club, and it became a second home to him. He got to know the club and the club got to know him. He started to practice his English with his peers, and became more comfortable.
Soon Gilbert was involved in our Teen Membership Program, which led to him becoming a Peer Leader, working as a junior staff throughout high school. Gilbert joined the “Keystone Club,” a club focused on leadership development for young people, and began to excel in school. In 2012 he was awarded “Youth of the Year” -- a prestigious award recognizing service to the club and the community, academic performance, and contributions to family and spiritual life.
After graduating Dean Technical High School in 2012 he continued to work at the club as a Peer Leader committed to helping other kids. After graduation he continued to live at home and help support his family. He knew he had to make a better life for all of them, and be a role model to his younger siblings. Club professionals such as Ann Mann, our Director of Operations, recognized the potential in Gilbert and made it her mission to help him succeed. Ann made a referral for a job on Gilbert’s behalf, because he had already proven himself to be a hardworking, eager, talented young man through our junior staff program.
With help from Ann, Gilbert received a job as an apprentice at Holyoke Gas & Electric. It wasn’t long until they to saw his potential and he was offered a full time job.
Gilbert is now in his fourth year working full time at Holyoke Gas & Electric as an electrician’s apprentice; he has a professional career. Gilbert bought a car and a two-family house in Holyoke. Gilbert moved his parents and siblings out of public housing to live in the house with him. He was a home owner at only 22 years old and has become a working role model to his younger siblings.
Nowadays, guess where Gilbert spends his days off, or if he gets out of work early enough on a Friday? Gilbert comes to the Club. He comes to the Club to volunteer his time because he knows how important it is to give back to an organization that has given him so much. Thanks to the Club and its staff, Gilbert received continuous support after school with more than just his homework. The course of Gilbert’s life and that of his family’s has been altered forever because staff at the Club take very seriously our mission to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. With his commitment to learning, growing, and supporting others, Gilbert represents what we at the club value most.
Kids in every community deserve a chance at a great future. Boys & Girls Clubs provide high impact, affordable programs, and caring adult mentorship to give kids an opportunity to learn and grow from ages 5 to 18 and even after.
At the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, we believe that the positive development of our members is a collective responsibility. Everybody at the Club, from staff and volunteers, to Board Members and parents, have a role in making sure that all youth grow up with the supports, the opportunities, the experiences, and the relationships that will help them become successful. It’s easy to see the impact our Club has on our members and participants as well as our larger community through the smiles of youth in our after school care, the increased academic support, the improved member health resulting from lifestyle changes, and their sheer determination to accomplish more than what they originally thought was possible.
To donate to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 497388 on your paper pledge form.