Award Winning and Character-Rich: Zeraun has been an extraordinary Boys’ Club member since he joined as six-year-old Explorer.
Seven years later he’s 13 and stirring up a bit of buzz throughout the clubhouse, “You’re going to read about him the papers one day,” says Clubhouse Director Carlos Velazquez. “He does everything here. He’s the star of the flag-football team, he’s on the basketball team, he plays baseball, he’s in Youth Council, he’s in swim, HSA, he went to camp. He does it all.” He might not be in the papers just yet, but Zeraun has participated in quite a few of BCNY’s programs including Young Men’s Group, which focuses on masculinity and identity, Youth Council, most of our team sports, Art, Tutoring, and High School Access (HSA).
Zeraun personified what it meant to be a Boys’ Club boy. Now he’s a young man – a role model to younger members and leader to his peers.
As a Teen, there is no one compelling Zeraun to show up for programming at BCNY, but he does, despite peer pressure from his friends, “I had some close friends that used to come to BCNY but they thought it was whack so they left…but I keep coming.” It’s not surprising that Zeraun won the Fall Cycle Character-Rich I AM BCNY Award this year. His success at the I AM BCNY Awards didn’t stop there; he also won the I AM BCNY Awards Sweatshirt design contest and his design was printed on the sweatshirts worn by all the winners of the I AM BCNY Awards.
He also recently won BCNY’s annual Thanksgiving essay contest. When it was announced that Zeraun won, Youth Director Terrence Taylor recalled Zeraun’s response to his congratulations, “After he won the essay contest and I was congratulating him, he said, ‘I couldn’t have written it if BCNY hadn’t helped me – so thank you,’ – what an amazing young man.” Click here to read Zeraun’s essay.
Only two blocks from his school and much closer than his home in the Bronx, Zeraun says that he keeps coming to the Boys’ Club because he gets to do the things he thinks are important, “Instead of going all the way home I get to hang out with the friends I have here and I get to finish my homework. I get to go to gym, swim; I get to do activities to help me grow up better as a young man.”
As a participant in HSA he’s taken the SHSAT and applied to top schools in New York such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and boarding schools such as Petty, Hotchkiss, and Loomis Chaffee. Getting into a top school may be an intimidating goal, but his goals for adulthood are even bigger. “I want to be a professional football player; if that doesn’t work out, I want to be a fashion designer for men because I like to wear clothes.” Now that he’s a Teen, he’s excited to start the silk-screening program taught by Teen Director Otha Caldwell and create shirts, bags, and sweatshirts that he can print and design himself.
Part of what makes Zeraun such a great example of what it means to be a Boys’ Club boy is the way he carries himself with extraordinary inner strength and self-possession. He’s able to withstand the pressures of middle school and other teenagers who think that BCNY is uncool, that having goals or doing well in school is lame. “I have haters…some of my friends doubt me a lot, but mostly as a joke, and I have other people that say I can’t do it, because I’m not good enough,” he said, collecting his thoughts. “I think I can do it anyway. I’m confident I can just because I know I have the talents to do it and I’m brave enough to actually try. I think if the people that doubt me were in my position they wouldn’t try at all.”
Zeraun is already looking towards his future at the Boys’ Club. When he’s an older Teen member, Zeraun wants to work with the Explorers, “I want to be looked up to, I want to be a role model to younger kids, give them advice…teach them how it is in the real world. I just know how it feels, I was once in their position.” A true Boys’ Club member, he’s already hoping to help other members of his community, just like BCNY staff helped him grow into the young man he is today.