Carolina Correa was all of 12 years old, new to America, couldn’t speak English, struggling in school and still reeling from the violence that had claimed her father’s life in their homeland of war-torn Columbia.
Her stomach empty and her pockets bare, Correa was caught taking a carton of chocolate milk from the cafeteria and sent to a school counselor.
That’s when she was introduced to the Boys and Girls Club, and to a whole new world.
“Everything began to change when I joined the Boys and Girls Club,” said Correa, now 23, a recent Assumption College honors graduate and a relationship management associate for the United Way of Central Massachusetts. “It literally saved my life. It changed my life and I don’t know where I would be now without them.”
If you met Correa today, you wouldn’t suspect that she was once at a point in her life where she thought she had no choice but to steal to get something she wanted. Today, she is a poised professional on her way to a successful business career. She credits the Boys and Girls Club with helping her not only turn her life around, but helping her become an inspiration to others.
Calling it “transformational,” Correa credits the organization with much of the success she enjoys today. She credits her strong mother for the rest. Not only did the club provide hot meals and a safe place to go after school, it also provided the structure, support and encouragement that Correa needed to thrive in her new life in the United States.
“They were not just babysitters,” said Correa. “The Boys and Girls Club became like a home to me and my brother, which lifted the burden on my mother too.”
Correa’s mother had always placed a high value on education and insisted that Correa and her brother get straight A’s and participate in a sport or play a musical instrument. At the Boys and Girls Club, Correa received tutoring and was able to practice her English, which helped her succeed academically.
She also learned to swim, which led to competing on a swim team as well as a job training life guards. Correa landed a full scholarship to Assumption College and competed on its swim team all four years. She graduated with honors in May of 2013. She credits her swim coach with encouraging her to ignore influences that might make her doubt herself and to embrace challenges. She was named the Boys and Girls Club of America’s Youth of the Year for 2009-2010 and served as the national youth spokesperson.
“You can tell kids that there is another world out there, but you don’t believe it until you’re exposed to it yourself,” said Correa. “That’s what the Boys and Girls Club did for me—it showed that there was another world that I could be a part of.”
Now she is trying to give back and encourage others to invest in programs that support children, families and communities.
In this video, Correa talks about the importance of the Boys and Girls Club in her own life and about the power of giving to change lives.
Boys and Girls Club is one of more than 1,000 prescreened nonprofits supported by the COMECC campaign. To learn more about the 2013 COMECC campaign, visit the COMECC website or speak to your department’s COMECC team leader.