By Margot Andrich, Advancement Summer Intern
As I prepare to relocate to begin a career with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, I have been reflecting on my ten years at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. This "letter to my younger self" embodies all of the things I wish I could have known at age twelve when I first was enrolled at the Lee Wetherington Club. I owe everything to my Club family, and while it is impossible for me to ever fully express the extent of my gratitude, I did my best to do so here.
Being 12 is hard. Don’t get me wrong- being 21 is hard too. But I remember how you feel- alone, scared, lost. I remember not having the right words to attach to my feelings. I remember not being able to focus in school, sobbing as soon as I got home every day, and I remember it seeming like I had to watch life from the sidelines. You just moved to Florida and started at a new school, you don’t know anybody, and you wish that you could disappear.
I understand the weight of what you’re experiencing, but you need to know that change is coming. Soon, Mom will see a flyer for the SRQVolunteen program and sign you up. You’re not going to want to go because you’re shy and insecure and feel stuck but you’re going to go anyways. And I promise from the bottom of my heart that once you walk through the front doors of the Club, things will start to get better. Also, you’re basically never going to leave. From STAR to Alternative Spring Break to interning in Teen Programming, your high school years are going to be filled with safe, impactful opportunities.
I want to tell you that nothing is “wrong” with you. You’re about to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it’s going to take a while (until college) but you’ll also find out that you have ADHD. With the help of your Club, your mentors, and your friends, you are going to take your life back. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but no matter what, the mentors and the friends that you’re about to meet will love and support you unconditionally. Your Club will never let you fail, allow you to suffer in silence, or turn its back on you.
I want to tell you that all of the things you so deeply longed for but believed could never become reality for you came true because of the Club. Though you might not believe me now, you will graduate high school, get a perfect score on your ACT, and get a full ride to the University of Florida. Every summer, your mentors at the Club will make sure there is an internship available so that you can come “home,” give back to the organization that means everything to you, and gain invaluable experience for your future career in Donor Relations.
I want to tell you that during the summer of 2023, you will intern in Advancement at the Club through the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Opportunities for All program, and will finally understand the expression “full-circle.” In August, you’re going to move to Miami with your emotional support dog. Believe it or not, because of the invaluable experience you’ve gained at your internship, you’re going to start your career in Advancement for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade while attending graduate school for Non-Profit Management. From the Club, you will have more brilliant, deeply empathetic and inspiring individuals in your corner than you can possibly imagine. And they’re all cheering you on. And you will be okay.
I want to tell you that you can ask for help even when you’re eighteen and nineteen and twenty. I’m going to let you in on a secret: I still call Ms. Suriya when I need advice, professional guidance, or a friend to confide in, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I want to tell you that you can always come home.
Your ten years with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties are going to change and save your life in more ways than you can even imagine. Just keep your head up and hang in there.
And remember: once a Club kid, always a Club kid.