Greek Coates is not just another kid from Philly. He has big dreams and is already making huge strides towards achieving them. He was recently named the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year state winner for Pennsylvania after winning the Philadelphia citywide competition, becoming the first state winner for the Philadelphia chapter of the Clubs since 1988. He will compete in the Northeast Regional competition at the end of June.
The 18-year-old high school senior has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia (BGCP) for nearly three years and attends the Police Officer Lauretha Vaird Club in the Northeast section of the city on a regular basis.
Greek has become a prominent role model for the younger Club kids and is an active participant in the teen programs, including being the current president of the Keystone Club. The Keystone Club is a leadership development program for youth ages 14-18 that focuses on activities in the areas of academic success, career preparation and community service.
In addition to his important role at the Clubs, Greek keeps up on his schoolwork, plays basketball and holds down two part-time jobs to assist his single mother with the household expenses.
Greek attends Connexus Academy, a cyber school, and plans to pursue a medical major in college. He aspires to become a nurse, and eventually a physician.
“It’s easy to see why he was selected. It’s impressive what he’s done. He’s very respectful, well mannered, calm and engaging and not afraid to meet the people within. It’s an honor to be around a motivated youth like Greek,” Marcos Reynaga, Executive Communications Officer for BGCP said.
While Greek now considers the Clubs a second home, he was initially just looking for a positive place to go after school that would take him away from the negative influences on the streets and allow him to play basketball. Over time, he became involved with the Keystone Club and Money Matters program, and says, “It became more for me. It became a place where I could go to make a change in the community. We did all kinds of community service projects.”
One project that Greek is especially proud of is the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) WALK Against Hate, a walk to stop hate crimes in Philadelphia and spread the word about ending hate and bigotry in the community. He and other Club kids worked with ADL staffers to encourage walkers, hand out water and walk as well.
BGCP’s Executive Program Officer John Gonzalez says that over time, he noticed Greek’s leadership skills coming out. Besides just playing basketball, he saw him helping out in the office, being first in line for the community service activities and getting involved with the Keystone Club. Eventually all of the kids that started at the Club with him also joined the Keystone Club. He says they followed Greek because of his leadership.
Gonzalez points out that, “a lot of these kids would have become a statistic if it wasn’t for the Clubs.”
When asked how the Boys & Girls Clubs have changed him, Greek says, “I had ideas that I wanted to help people and help the community, but I didn’t have a place to achieve these goals. The Boys & Girls Clubs helped me fulfill my goals of helping others.”
Greek wishes more youth knew about the Clubs and has this advice for teens trying to find their way: “Take advantage of the Boys & Girls Clubs! They offer so many different things, like homework help, help finding a job, writing essays and resumes, everything. There are so many different aspects of the Clubs other than just the recreational part of it that help you in life. It’s not just playing sports. It helps you grow in life. Take advantage of everything they have there for you.”
There are many things about his Clubs experience that will stay with him, but most of all, Greek says he will cherish the feeling he got from just being in the Clubs and knowing he was safe and around people who cared about him and wanted to help. When he had problems going on at home, Greek said he knew he could always come to the Club.
More About the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year Program:
Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is BGCA’s premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability.
Local Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month winners and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.
How You Can Get Involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia:
Marcos Reynaga says there are a lot of opportunities, including board memberships and community volunteer opportunities with the Clubs for individuals or groups. There are seven full sites in Philadelphia and five extension sites. Reynaga says the Clubs always open the doors for volunteers and donations are always welcome as well to help fund the programs.
Raising awareness about the Clubs with kids who could benefit from the programs and services provided, Reynaga says would help as well.
To Learn More About the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia:
- Visit their official Website: http://bgcphila.org/
- Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BGCPhila
- Follow them on Twitter: @BGCPhiladelphia