Forced to stare at the full-length mirror in the center of the SMART Girls circle, I began to face the fearswithin that had been consuming me: Fear of laughter from my classmates because my mom spoke poor English. Fear of exclusion because my lunch of rice and stew was different from the typical PB&J other kids packed. Fear of giving into the everyday peer pressures that teenagers face. Fear of being a failure in the eyes of my father who could not afford to go to college. As I reflected on my reflection, the tears started running down my face.
Hello, my name is Stephanie Owusuaa. For the last eleven years, I have been a proud member of the Murraygate Village Boys & Girls Club and I am the ultimate expression of ART: assertive, resolute, tenacious. Every inch of my Club, a converted 3-bedroom apartment with no gym, no games room, no field, only two staff and about 50 kids who are first or second-generation immigrants, tells a story of how I’ve grown. The computer lab is where I’ve always made sure to complete my homework because I knew my mom never learned how to read so she could not help me at home. The little kitchen is where I learned to share and embrace my culture with other Club members by cooking traditional West African food. The tiny room tucked in the back, our teen center, is where I learned to challenge xenophobia in our Contemporary World Issues program.
Growing up in America can be difficult if you are from another country like my family who is from Ghana. You become a target for other people’s aggressions and insecurities. I gave those fears and insecurities the power to dictate my life, but the Club empowered me to take control of my own goals and purpose. Power Hour helps me prepare for college; Contemporary World Issues teaches me how to be a global citizen; Smart Girls has helped me with self-development and to become a role model for my younger sisters. Ms. Liz teaches me to face my fears. Those fears are now stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks on the path towards my great future.
With only $50 and big dreams, my parents came to this country despite having a lot of fears. When I was five, $50 and big dreams opened the doors to the Club that has transformed those fears into my expression of ART: Assertive because I believe in equal rights. Resolute because I am not easily influenced by social pressures. Tenacious because I will graduate from college despite the challenges I’ve had. Sitting in the SMART Girls circle now and staring at my reflection, I proudly say, (say it in Twi first) “I am a strong young woman from Ghana ready to change the world just like the Club changed me.”
We serve kids and teens through an adopted strategy created by our National Headquarters to ensure Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.
Boys and Girls Club has twelve locations throughout the Greater Washington region. Visit a club page below, or find a club near you!
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