Brooklyn Goolesby knows exactly where she would be if it weren’t for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County.
Marqua Gant and Brooklyn Goolesby play a quick game of basketball in the gym at the Boys & Girls Club’s Murfreesboro facility. (TMP/ M. Willard)
“I’d be getting myself in trouble. I’d be hanging with the wrong people,” she said.
Goolesby, a freshman at Oakland High School, explained the Boys & Girls Club keeps her on the straight and narrow by giving her something to do after school and a place to make new friends.
The Murfreesboro club serves more than 1,700 children annually and buses children to one of the clubs from 35 different schools in the Rutherford County area.
Her friend Marqua Gant agreed, saying the Boys & Girls Club gives him a place to play his favorite game, basketball.
“It gives me a place to go to after school so I’m not bored,” said Gant, a freshman at Blackman High School.
And as Gant knows idle hands are the devil’s playthings. He has had “some slip ups” that forced his mother to take him off the Blackman basketball team. But he hopes to try out again next year with his new attitude.
“I was immature,” he said, adding he plans to work as a staff member at the Boys & Girls Club over the summer. It will be his first job.
“I feel at home here,” he said.
While the Boys & Girls Club helped Gant become more responsible, it helped Goolesby learn to control her temper.
“When I was little, I used to fight a lot. I’m not a fighter but if I have to I will,” she said, adding she was suspended from school for fighting after a confrontation with a boy.
But the staff at the Boys & Girls Club helped her learn to control her anger.
“If you get in a fight here you get in trouble,” Gant said.
So Goolesby followed the advice of the Boys & Girls Club staff and learned to control herself.
Both Goolesby and Gant are eager to have more time in the Teen Center, which hasn’t opened fully yet because the club needs a teen director.
“We are in the process of hiring a teen director and have narrowed it down to final candidates,” said Michelle Clifford, Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County’s marketing and special events coordinator. “Our goal with the new Teen Center is to build our teen program and offer beneficial programming that will put them on the path to success.”
Another way the Boys & Girls Club keeps kids on a path to success is a college tour, when 50 teens spend an entire week this summer touring nine colleges and universities across Georgia and Florida.
In the meantime, the state of the art Teen Center, which was completed in January, offers a cafe, game room, learning loft, and meeting room, the building itself serving as a dedicated space to specifically serve teens and their particular needs.
Clifford said Rutherford County teens, like Goolesby and Gant, have too few positive choices for activities, something the club hopes to change with the Teen Center.
“Their need for our services and for a safe and welcoming place is arguably equal to or greater than those needs of our younger children,” Clifford said. “The risks and temptations to teens today are very alarming.”
Goolesby reiterated the same concern.
“I would just be hanging around with the wrong crowd, doing wrong things,” she said.
Clifford said the Teen Center will give a much needed diversion to area teens.
“You’ve got to make friends and have things to do,” Goolesby said.