Eric McGee has a home with a family that he loves, and then he has the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County. McGee, a senior at Northwest Classen High School, has been going to his neighborhood Boys & Girls Club for 11 of his 18 years. It’s a place where he feels safe, where he can have fun and where he can learn responsibility and what it takes to be a successful adult.
The message the organization preaches has resonated. McGee was recently named Boys & Girls Club youth of the year for Oklahoma City. It’s an honor he might not have expected to win years ago when he spotted some kids playing flag football in his new neighborhood and wandered over to see what they were doing. “It’s been a great honor to win it,” McGee said. “I’ve met a lot of people here, and they are behind me. They want to make sure I can go out and chase my dreams and become the person I always wanted to be.”
McGee spends nearly every afternoon after school at the club. He attends in the summer. Whether it is computers or sports, or just sitting around talking to other kids, many of whom are younger than him and looking for role models, it feels like the place to be. “More than half my life has been spent in this building,” he said. “It’s a place that keeps you out of trouble. That’s what it did to me. I know when I come here it’s a safe environment and I stuck with it because I enjoyed it.”
McGee plans to attend college after graduation. He’s been accepted to Oral Roberts University, but also has an interest in Oklahoma State. His long-term goal is to get into banking.
“Anything to do with number I enjoy,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always done pretty well with. I always loved counting as a kid. My dad always pushed me at a young age, studying multiplication tables. I think that helped better my experience in middle school and high school and I’ve done well in those classes.”
The bad news for McGee is that when he turns 18 he can no longer be a member of the Boys & Girls Club. He will “age out” of the organization. That will be a difficult transition initially.
“I wouldn’t even know where I’d be without the club,” he said. “I have a great family but the Boys & Girls Club have provided another family for me. They’ve been coaches and mentors. They played that role very well. Without it, I don’t know…I’ve watched a lot of friends be buried lately. My life wouldn’t be the same without the experiences I’ve had here.”
This article was written by Matt Patterson and appeared in the May 3, 2015 edition of The Oklahoman.