Out of Trouble and Into Mentorship

Lisuini P., a shining star at our Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse, wrote an article for Youth Communication, about the positive impact the Clubhouse has had on him. We are so proud of you, Lisuini!

In elementary school, I was a quiet but bad kid. I was not social, I would sometimes fight or talk disrespectfully to people, and I had poor grades.

My attitude about school was that it was a place to sit and do nothing. For example, one day in the 4th grade I fell asleep in class. My teacher said, “Look at this lazy boy sleeping.” “What you going to do? I don’t care if you kick me out,” I shouted back. She escorted me out of her room and I sat in another classroom to cool off, but when I returned to class I ignored her when she talked to me.

After school, I liked roaming the streets and going to the park until it got dark. I just wanted to have fun, and I didn’t want to go home. When I started 5th grade I noticed the park becoming more dangerous and frequent, random fights breaking out. I got used to it. And thankfully, nobody bothered me.

But when my mom learned that the park wasn’t safe, she registered me at Madison Square Boys & Girls Club across the street from Erasmus High School in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush. I didn’t mind going there; it’s not like hanging out in the park every day was all that fun. I would shoot hoops for a while, take a break, and then get back to shooting hoops.

I was shy and it seemed like everybody knew each other and I felt insecure. I felt like everybody was stronger and bigger than me and they were all five times better than me at sports. If there was a flag football game I would usually get picked last. 

Cool, Laid Back, and Organized

But eventually I made friends and felt more at home. In fact, even though I had behavior issues like talking back to people or giving them attitude, I never acted up at the Boys & Girls Club. Everything is organized and there are kind staff who listen to your problems. Most of them are cool and laid back with the kids unless things start getting rowdy. Then they take command and keep everybody under control.

After two years, I found the organized environment made it easier for me to do well in school. Kids are broken up into three age groups, and there are schedules for each, and staggered trips to the gym and indoor pool. They also have designated study times called Power Hour that are in quiet rooms. We’re all respectful of each other. I read a lot there, something I love doing but I need it to be peaceful. In school there is constant fighting and gossiping. At home my two younger siblings often distract me.

When I was in 7th grade I took part in a program there called Passport to Manhood. It focused on what it means to be a man. We discussed how to have healthy relationships with family, friends, and even strangers; how to be gentlemen; and why you should respect women. This program made me a better person because I became more respectful toward women and a little more social.

At Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, I feel welcome and safe. If there’s an argument between kids, the staff talks with them and they make peace. One kid was bullying me because I wasn’t good enough at basketball but one of the staff said to him, “Look at it this way: At least he’s trying and working hard, he’s not scared to play defense on none of you, and you got to give him respect for that.” The kid apologized and then we actually became friends.

I Became a Role Model

Last year was the first time I was old enough to mentor the younger kids. I coach flag football and basketball. After their games I tell them what they did right and what they have to do to improve. Some of the kids talk to me about their problems outside the club and I try to help them. I wouldn’t be this generous if it wasn’t for the people in the Boys & Girls Club; they changed me. Having younger kids look up to me makes me feel proud.

I recently signed up for a program called PGP or Project Graduate Program. Mr. Johnson, the person in charge of this program, organizes trips to various colleges, shares information, and also gives us advice about how to apply to college and what to expect once you get there. Thanks to him, attending college is a realistic goal for me.

In the beginning of the school year I made the basketball teams both at school and at the club. This began affecting my grades; when I got home most nights I’d be too exhausted to do any homework. They were good enough for me to stay on the school team—you had to have above a 70—but I knew I was smarter than that. Since other kids were struggling, my coach at the club started a study group; if we didn’t come, we couldn’t play in the next game. It got me on track with my homework and my grades improved.

The staff at Madison continue to help me grow to be the best person I can be. They changed the course of my life. I went from being a trouble-making kid to a calm and relaxed kid. Now I’m always looking for a way to better myself and the people around me.