When 14 year-old Club member Zuri steps onto the basketball court, he can usually hear one voice above all others in the crowd yelling, “GO Zu Zu! GO!” Wearing a jersey with his name on the back, Zuri’s mom is his number one fan and rarely misses a game. This is how it has been for his entire life – Zuri’s mom has been there, cheering him on every step of the way.
“It’s just me and my mom. I don’t need anybody else,” Zuri shared with an edge of sorrow striking through his delivery.
At the age of five, Zuri’s father left, abandoning his mother to raise him on her own. The occasional phone call is the only connection Zuri has with his father. Digesting feelings of abandonment and adjusting to a life without a father was no simple task. Luckily, Zuri and his mother found the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club to help fill Zuri’s life with positive activities and caring adult mentors.
“I would be miserable without the Club,” said Zuri. “It is a place that I can turn to everyday to socialize and seek guidance from the staff.”
Instead of dwelling on his hardships, the experiences Zuri has gained at the Boys & Girls Club have empowered him to get involved in his community and work toward a promising future for him and his mom.
With a basketball in hand, Zuri can feel at home just about anywhere. He learned about the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club when he was seven and his cousins – who were Club members – encouraged him to join. Surrounded by a sea of unknown faces, Zuri was shy in the beginning. He turned to the one place he knew he would find comfort – the basketball court. Letting his hands do the talking and shooting hoops in the gym, it did not take Zuri long to make friends. Now, seven years later, he is still friends with the same Club members that he met on his first day. Together, they have won and lost games representing their Club and now prepare to try out for their high school basketball team. “I want to work hard and improve my game in high school so that I can play college basketball one day,” said Zuri.
Since Zuri can remember, he has had his heart set on going to college. When he graduates from high school, he wants to attend the University of Kansas just like his mother did. “I know that as a single mom she works so hard to take care of me,” says Zuri. “I want to follow in her footsteps and make her proud.”
Staying on top of his schoolwork, Zuri turns to the Learning Center and STEM Lab at his Boys & Girls Club to continue to make positive academic strides. The Learning Center has become more than a place to get his homework done. Zuri now works in the Learning Center as a peer leader helping younger Club members with their homework. Working at the Club allows Zuri to spend time in a place that he loves while he saves his paychecks to pay for college.
When Zuri takes a break from shuffling his feet on the basketball court, he finds other ways to stay active. That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to work as a Counselor-in-Training at Boys & Girls Clubs’ Gates Camp over the summer. The job helped Zuri discover what it takes to be a good leader and how important it is to have patience.
“It wasn’t always easy. I had to juggle empathizing with campers when they were homesick and making them go to bed at night when they were up late having fun,” said Zuri.
At the end of the summer, Zuri’s hard work was rewarded with the opportunity to join some fellow Club members on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. This special trip was Zuri’s first time leaving the state of Colorado and it is an experience he will never forget.
When Zuri sets his mind to something, he accomplishes it. His current focus is earning a trip to Boys & Girls Clubs’ National Keystone Leadership Conference in Chicago. “I have been working hard to build my resume and portfolio in hopes that I get selected to attend,” said Zuri.
On top of being a member of Keystone (the Club’s character and leadership program for teens), Zuri has participated in Club programming focused on developing leadership skills to strengthen his portfolio. Through the Club’s Pathways to Success program, Zuri expanded his understanding of different careers in the athletic industry, including studying the intricacies of sports journalism and exploring the operations side of the Olympic Training Center. Through these experiences, Zuri hopes his hard work will not only land him a ticket to the conference in Chicago, but they will help him with his future career!