By Geoffry Gilot, Teen Program Director, Roy McBean Boys & Girls Club
For the past two decades, I’ve had the privilege of hearing the stories of countless Club teens. Now I am deeply honored to switch roles and share my own journey with the organization. It's a journey that has been guided by a recurring thought – The Club’s mission isn’t just something I believe in, it’s an essential part of who I am.
I've been keeping a bit of a secret, mostly because I didn’t want to be labeled a traitor, but it’s time to come clean. My journey started in Boston, Massachusetts, at the YMCA. It was only when my family moved to Florida at the age of 11 that I got my first taste of the Boys & Girls Club. My cousin, Dorothy, was the Program Director back then, and she opened the doors for me. From that very first moment, The Club began to work its magic, quickly becoming my second home and my second family.
As a teenager who couldn't sit still for five seconds, I immersed myself in all the activities The Club had to offer, from basketball to flag football, dodgeball to ping-pong. It was here that I found my voice and confidence and formed lifelong friendships that have stood the test of time.
Through those critical years, two mentors, Mr. Reggie and Mr. Andrew, made an unforgettable impact on my life. They were unflinchingly honest, even when I didn’t want them to be, but they always wrapped that honesty in genuine care. They nurtured my dream of becoming a collegiate basketball player while also preparing me for the realities of life. Their guidance empowered me to reach for the stars and simultaneously prepared me for whatever life might throw my way.
Upon returning from college, I found myself wearing a different hat – that of a Youth Development Professional at The Club. The experience was humbling, a stark transition from the kid who once roamed these halls to someone responsible for guiding young minds. The position forced me to grow both personally and professionally. It was challenging but immensely rewarding.
After graduating with a degree in Sports Management, I could have pursued a full-time career in my field of study, but when the opportunity to become a part-time Athletic Director at the Gene Matthews Club presented itself, I couldn't resist. I created sports leagues, instilled the importance of healthy lifestyles and sportsmanship, and found immense joy in working with the kids, and sharing my passions with them. I strived to be the mentor to others that Mr. Reggie and Mr. Andrew had been to me.
But life took a few twists and turns. I briefly left The Club to pursue a full-time career opportunity with Sarasota County as a Parks and Recreational Specialist. Yet, my heart remained with The Club. I continued to volunteer on my days off helping to advance the mission while finding fulfillment in the same place I had since I was 11. I found myself gravitating back home and six months later, I rejoined The Club, this time with the Teen Programming team as a full-time employee.
Working with teens was a transformative experience. I had the privilege of being a part of their journey and making a meaningful impact on their lives. But in 2020, with the challenges posed by the pandemic, I left the organization, seeking something new and fresh.
I ventured into the health field as an Assistant Director of Environmental Services at Doctors Hospital. Even during my absence, my Club family kept checking in; showing unwavering support.
As time passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my true passion remained within The Club’s walls, working with teens; and being a mentor. Yet again, I found that I couldn't stay away from a mission that had become a part of me. My journey came full circle as I returned, working alongside my colleagues to pursue our shared vision and goals. Our mission to enable all young people to become productive, caring, and responsible citizens is not just a lofty ideal; it’s a lifelong commitment, a calling that anchors me here.
I am a testament to the power of opportunities and growth within an organization that has had my back through thick and thin. The Boys & Girls Club has played an instrumental role in shaping the professional I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.