GCU Students Making a Difference at Boys & Girls Clubs

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Andre Bell says working with kids is a little like the poetry he writes. It’s all about understanding his audience.

“You have to have patience with them and develop a friendship,” Bell says of his work at the Jerry Colangelo Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Phoenix, a huge facility that opened in the spring of 2009 near 35th Avenue and McDowell Road, not far from the GCU campus.

“I don’t know if there’s a blueprint for this. A lot of them have adults in their life — but no relationship with them.”

Bell and two other GCU students, Daniel Garay and Victor Terrell-Carazo, have been in the relationship-formation business this summer at the Colangelo Branch as part of the University’s work-study program. They’re paid by GCU but considered volunteers by the club, which helps the club’s budget.

In all, 10 students are working at Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the Valley this summer. The other seven are: Katie Bremerthon, Aldo Munoz Gonzalez, William McClarty, Ann Olvera, Yousef Ramadan, Evelia Stacey and Nick Sykes.

The value of having college students as role models shouldn’t be underestimated, according to Bridget McDonald, vice president of club operations for the Boys & Girls Club.

“This is a great connection to higher education for these kids,” McDonald says. “It’s especially important for the teens to see.”

As many as 850 youths from age 5 through 18 cycle through the Colangelo Branch during the summer, says branch manager Lemuel Carter, who raves about the one-on-one connections Bell, Garay and Terrell-Carazo have made.

“There’s nothing like having them look the part of college students and speak about why college is important after high school,” Carter says.

The Colangelo Branch is equipped with game rooms, two gyms, a computer lab, a resource center and a lunch room. It operates in partnership with the Isaac School District.

Bell, a Christian studies major at GCU, says it’s challenging but not impossible to be a friend and an authority figure at the same time.

“Often times, adults have spoken at them,” he says, “but when you speak with them, it opens up the lines of communications.”

Eleven-year-old Zaiveon Greer seems to have blossomed with attention from Bell.

“He’s nice, and he’s taught me to respect other people,” the boy says of their relationship.

Garay, who is studying business administration at GCU, says it’s important to “be firm before being fun” but admits he’s learning as much from the younger ones as they are from him.

“They ask the same kinds of questions I did when I was a 12-year-old,” he says.

Terrell-Carazo, a secondary-education major, says there’s nothing like knowing he is making a difference.

“The bond you form with them is really rewarding,” he says.

GCU will host the statewide Keystone Convention of the Boys & Girls Club on campus Sept. 10-12.

Reach Doug Carroll at 602.639.8011 or at [email protected].

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