UCF’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida gives at-risk students a little taste of what college is all about
October 15, 2018 by Scott Mauro
Teenagers dream big. Some want to be the next great photographer others want to follow in Lebron James and Neil Armstrong footsteps. All they need sometimes is a little nudge in the right direction and dreams often become reality. The goal of the Live United Campaign annual Campus Experience for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida is to provide a unique day of activities and interactions that inspire the students to think about positive ways to get involved in a campus community and resources available to help them flourish socially, academically, and professionally.
Donors in the UCF & United Way Campaign can donate directly to the Boys & Girls Clubs, or to the Heart of Florida of United Way which has outreach to the Boys & Girls Club. Your donations impact students like 14-year-old Elginek Loyd. She grew up taking pictures around her father’s Brevard County barber shop. Now she wants to use college as a way to develop those skills so she can put them to use in future: “(I will) probably take pictures of celebrities and famous people (when I get older)”, said Loyd.
Elginek goes to Astronaut High School and just recently starting going back to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. She loves the connections she makes at the club and the opportunities to see places like UCF, “I can get scholarships, meet new people, new friends, you know, to get out the house and do things and take field trips.”
Annually, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida partners with UCF to bring at-risk youth in our community to spend the day at UCF. This year the students learned leadership skills through challenges hosted by the UCF Outdoor Adventure Team from the Recreation and Wellness Center, received career advice from the UCF Police Department, and spoke with UCF student leaders about student life and campus involvement.
Osceola High School sophomore Derrick Morss grew up playing basketball and dreaming of being an astronaut. He cherishes the opportunity to come to UCF to see how college can create a path for him to succeed. Derrick says he appreciates everything the Boys & Girls Clubs does for him and his friends, “Just to interact with other people. To meet new friends. If I had trouble they could help me with my problems at home. If I need somewhere to go to calm down, I go over there. (BGCCF) helps me with my school work, helps me become a better person and everything.”
The Heart of Florida United Way connects youth and their families with educational services with more than a dozen community partners including the GREAT Futures Initiative with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. GREAT Futures offers an after school and summer safe place for students so they can focus on academic success and personal well-being.
Nic Freeman, Volunteer Resource Manager says the Campus Experience event allows club members like Elginek and Derrick a chance to see themselves in college, “I think one of the great things about our partnership is … we have folks who come out from the Nursing Department, from the Education Department, all types of different departments in the UCF movement coming out to show kids different activities; to show them different things they can do in their careers. They already have a connection to UCF within our own clubs. Now they get to come, the wheels turn a little bit, and they get to come to their house, and get to see how things are here.”
The Campus Experience event requires sponsorship, leadership, and volunteer power to be successful. The lunch for the Boys & Girls Club students and staff members is provided each year by Kavaliro Staffing Agency. The day’s activities were provided by volunteers from the campus community including
- the UCF Cheerleaders & Knightro – who are always there to greet the students & set a positive tone for the day,
- Officer Witherspoon of the UCF Police Department who shared career advice and answered questions,
- a team from the Recreation and Wellness Center who hosted leadership-building team challenge activities,
- Career Services team members who hosted a college Jeopardy game, and
- student panelists Cassandra Allen, Savon Crumity, Jaleesa Elwin, and Brianna Laurenceau, and
- a team of UCF & United Way Campaign Advocates who facilitated the day’s activities.
This year’s event was chaired by Arielle Morton, a UCF employee who has been involved in the UCF & United Way Campaign since she was a student. Arielle is dedicated to making a positive difference for at-risk youth in our community, and serving as chair for this event has empowered her to do just that. Arielle shared:
“UCF stands for opportunity! Assisting in projects that help provide opportunities to youth is something that I am passionate about, as I truly believe in paying it forward. Growing up with three older siblings, I did not have a role model who attended college, as I was a first generation college student. My first introduction to college was by my general manager at the time who encouraged and motivated me to apply for college. She introduced me to her daughter who was attending UCF, and explained how she also was a single parent. This introduction created an opportunity for me to see that I too could accomplish these things. As a single mother, I’ve also utilized United Way services during hard times and I am extremely appreciative to the opportunity it has created for me to continue to care for my child and complete my college degree. With that being said, opportunity is the foundation that people stand on to create change. Instead of constraining youth dreams down to only the things they’ve been exposed to, I believe in opening up their eyes to several opportunities and allowing them to make a decision based on all possibilities. In the role as the event chair, I was able to provide the change I want to see.”
To give to the United Way during the month of October just go to https://liveunited.ucf.edu/ and hit the blue “Pledge Now” button. Donations can be made through payroll deduction, credit card, or cash/check, and you can choose any agency or cause near and dear to your heart.