Club Alumni Spotlight: Essence
Percy Peek Teen Center alumna, Essence, found her voice and passion for music during her time spent at her Club. After serving many years as a Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County Club member, representing her Club as Youth of the Year, and being awarded Children’s Services Council Outstanding Youth Award at graduation in 2022, we caught up with Essence to find out what she is up to today.
Q. What have you been up to since graduating from Boys & Girls Clubs?
I’ve had plenty to do since graduation! I spent the last seven months working two jobs, participating in five different bands, and working at school. The bands I have participated include the Port St. Lucie Community Band, the Jazz Combo, Jazz Band, Theatre Orchestra, and Treasure Coast Symphony where I played lead trumpet for our last performance.
I’ve also spent some time doing studio and church gigs as well. I left the Mets [where I worked as the on-field host] when the season ended last September, and got a job as an office manager at IRSC for my band. In January, I got another job at a movie theater, so I currently work at both the college and the movie theater.
Q. What learning experiences have you had that stand out to you the most?
Playing in the Port St Lucie Community Band, which is composed of professional musicians and college band students, has been a great learning experience for me as I have had the opportunity to play with members who have played for 30+ years. Learning from them has strengthened my motivation to improve.
One person I have grown to have a good relationship with is the president of the community band, Mrs. Pat Vida. She has taught me a lot about trumpet playing and helps me build my confidence as a musician. Having this relationship with her has been a learning experience within itself.
Q. What are your goals for your future? Have they shifted at all since your time at BGC?
Once I finish my AA, my goal is to audition for the FAMU Marching 100, where I will pursue my Bachelors in Music Education. One thing that has changed though, is how I approach reaching these goals.
Q. What are some challenges you may have faced/are facing and how are you overcoming them?
Like many other college students, I’ve learned a lot in my first semester and have had some challenges. With a busy school schedule and two jobs, it became difficult to manage my time
and stay on top of my responsibilities. Between going to class and turning in assignments on time, getting to all my rehearsals, setting aside time to practice my music, and work on top of that, it was easy to get distracted and lose focus. For the upcoming semester, one of my goals is to manage my time better and find ways to stay focused on music and school. This way, I’ll be prepared for my audition and further academic ventures.
Q. What impact did Boys & Girls Clubs have on your journey?
Boys & Girls Clubs definitely helped me get to where I am today. One of the best things I took away from being in the Clubs was the encouragement to dream and succeed.
The Club and staff were there to help me with everything. When I didn’t even begin to see a future for myself, they were there to remind me of what I’m capable of. When I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to go about it, they gave me reliable resources to call on and reassuring advice for my ideas (the good ones, at least). This helped to build my confidence and motivated me to take more initiative.
Q. What lessons did you learn in the Club that will help guide you as you continue your journey?
The platform that Boys & Girls Clubs gave me and the safe space they provided for me helped me learn to plan and organize my ideas, interact professionally, and be okay with taking risks for the greater good. As I continue my journey, this will help remind me to continue learning, growing, and contributing to my community for the betterment of myself and those around me, as well as building my skills and making good decisions.
Q. Have you stayed in contact with your Club?
To this day, I keep in contact with my Club mentors – Mrs. Rasheedah and Mr. Jevon – and I like to stop by my old Club, Percy Peek from time to time. I like going back because it reminds me where I came from, the wonderful relationships I had with people, and the growth I experienced, which remains encouraging for me.
Plus, seeing current Club teens inspires me to keep reaching my goals. For example, I’ve known Mia since we were both in middle school. She’s like a sister to me. Seeing how far she has come in Youth of the Year, academics, and in her personal life, fills me with joy, and inspires me to keep working along with my peers. Q. Before graduating, you were featured in a Boys & Girls Clubs of America article that said Boys & Girls Clubs helped you find your voice. Do you still feel that empowerment and are you able to use your voice in your life today?
Most definitely! One of my biggest challenges when I first attended the teen center was standing up for myself due to fear of being judged or wrong. My mentor taught me that despite negative thinking, there are always ways to positively advocate for yourself and your environment. So, when I have doubts, feel discouraged by a situation, or am just not having the best mental health day, I know that the voice in the back of my head is just that- a voice in the back of my head. It’s not what the situation really is, or in other cases, how the situation has to be handled. This helps me now in developing personal conviction towards my goals, and helping others become motivated to take initiative despite their circumstances.
Q. What is a piece of advice that you would give your younger self, or younger Club members today?
My advice would be to take advantage of all the opportunities at the Club! There are so many of them with so many benefits and lessons to teach and prepare teens for a meaningful, productive adulthood.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up, not just about your needs, but your dreams too! There are many dedicated staff members who are willing to get Club kids what they need not only to live, but to thrive. Not only will the Club staff listen to you, but the other Club kids will see it and be inspired themselves. One voice travels a long way.