After 11 years at the Boys & Girls Club, 18-year-old Dulce starts her first year of college this week with plans to become a child psychologist and help future generations succeed. That may sound ambitious, but Dulce has already proven that she has what it takes to make a positive impact in her community.

Dulce first stepped into the Club at just 7 years old and she felt a positive impact right away. Her family came to the United States when she was very young and adult responsibilities forced her to grow up quickly.

“I never had the opportunity to be a kid. I had to become an adult, not only for myself, but for my family,” Dulce said. She helped her mother around the house, helped raise and mentor her brother and sister and acted as the family peacekeeper when needed.

Away from home, things weren’t any easier. Dulce was bullied regularly at school. “I was constantly marked for my short stature, my boyish clothes, my hand-me-down shoes and my inability to speak English clearly,” she said. “The only place that I felt like I could be who I truly was, without being bullied or tormented, was the Boys & Girls Club.” “I instantly felt at home,” she recalled, describing her first days at the Club. “Without even having to talk to anybody, people came up to me, introducing themselves and trying to play games with me. I started to explore. I went to the art room, the tech room, the education center, and the gym. I’ve never seen a place so full of life. I instantly knew I had to come back. This had to be an everyday thing for me.”

As it does for many kids every year, the Club helped transform Dulce’s life and offered her the network of support she needed. With help from the Club, she became an academic success. She graduated high school with 32 college credits and earned membership in the National Honor Society. During her time at the Club, Dulce recorded more than 350 hours of community service. She also worked with her fellow Club members to create anti-bullying programs that teach kids at a young age to be accepting of others. “I dream of a world where no one is treated differently because of where they are from or who they are,” Dulce said.

To make that dream a reality, Dulce plans to earn her doctorate and become a certified child psychologist. She’s already made a difference in many lives and she will undoubtedly continue to make her Club and family proud. “The Club is my motivation to keep moving forward and to make a difference in the world I live in,” she said. “All I am, I owe to my family and the Club.”

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“The only place that I felt like I could be who I truly was, without being bullied or tormented, was the Boys & Girls Club.”

– Dulce