Developing Future Leaders in Texas
Nineteen-year-old Kenbea Walker lost his mother, whom he recalls as the “love of my life,” at the age of 5. Kenbea never knew his father.
Before passing away, Kenbea’s mother asked her oldest children to enroll Kenbea in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County, Texas, where she had formerly volunteered. Kenbea’s siblings fulfilled on that promise, and at the age of 11, Kenbea was introduced to the Club—an experience he credits with “saving my life.”
“When Kenbea first joined the club, he had been shuffled around a lot,” says Von Best, Chairman of the Board, Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County. “He was living with his brothers and sisters, and he was having trouble with his grades.”
At the Club, Kenbea participated in the SMART Moves program where he learned the importance of making good decisions and surrounding himself with positive influences. In just a short time Kenbea’s grades began to improve. He developed leadership skills and became active in sports. He was named a Scholar Athlete and received the Award of Excellence. At the Boys & Girls Club, he served as the President of the Keystone Teen Leadership Club. He also was a Peer Mentor and a Junior Staff member. He became active in his community, leading not only an Adopt-A-Highway program but also an Adopt-A Senior program, food drives and clothing drives.
“While so many kids in my neighborhood fall victim to crime, drugs and gang activity, my Club has sheltered me from the harshness of the outside world and has provided me with opportunities to do new, positive things,” Kenbea says. "Being in the Club makes me feel closer to my mom and the values she instilled in us.”
Kenbea was in the top 10 percent of his graduating class and is now attending William Penn University on a full scholarship. His goal: To go to law school.
“I plan to be a lawyer to help people and promote justice in our community,” he says.
Presently, there are more than 16,000 Collin County children living in poverty, and that number continues to climb. Poverty is the number one risk factor for problems such as teen pregnancy, dropping out of high school and serving time in a juvenile detention center.
“Texas taxpayers spend $99,500 per year to house one child in a juvenile detention center,” Best says. “Teen pregnancies cost Texas taxpayers $1 billion annually. It costs only $1,500 to put a Boys & Girls Clubs member through one year of comprehensive, preventative programs that deter kids from negative behaviors.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County keeps kids off the streets, out of trouble and engaged in positive behaviors. It provides at-risk and impoverished children (ages 6-18) with a safe, positive place to learn and grow during the afterschool hours. In 2010, it served more than 7,900 children in the community through membership and outreach.
While so many kids in my neighborhood fall victim to crime, drugs and gang activity, my Club has sheltered me from the harshness of the outside world and has provided me with opportunities to do new, positive things. — Kenbea Walker
Capital One is the Club’s largest corporate partner. In addition to the company’s financial support, employees tutor youth, run a financial literacy program, mount school supply drives and participate in various facility projects.
“The list goes on,” Best says. “In any given month you will see 100 company volunteers going through the club to do something. It’s quite remarkable. For Capital One, it’s not about the dollars it gives -- it’s about volunteerism and time.”
“We want Capital One to be an active participant in our community, working to improve the quality of life for all citizens," said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Capital One’s Plano-based Financial Services Division. “The Boys and Girls Club of Collin County is a tremendous partner for Capital One, as we have a shared mission of ensuring that the youngest amongst us have the tools necessary to be successful."
Programs at the Club emphasize academic success, character and leadership and health and life skills. In addition, youth receive an hour of homework help and tutoring, a snack and a hot dinner every night.
“For many children, it is their only hot meal of the day,” Best says.
Families pay a small annual membership fee equivalent to $1 a day. The fee is waived for those that can’t afford the expense. “More than 65 percent of our families are on scholarships,” Best says. “Because we have support from companies like Capital One, we are able to keep our fees very low and provide scholarships for kids that don’t have the money for the fee.”
In 2010, 99.9 percent of the Club’s members progressed to their next grade level on time. All of the Club’s seniors graduated high school and were accepted to college.
“We help our kids be successful through school so they can come back and be responsible citizens,” Best says. “We are creating tomorrow’s leaders, which ultimately means that the community can be successful.”
“I will be a positive role model,” Kenbea says. “I will be my mother’s legacy.”