By Laurence Kaldor, President of the VCLF
JANNYDA SRE FIRST participated in the Boys and Girls Club of Pomona Valley the summer before her freshman year of high school and has been intimately involved ever since. She attributes the life affirming lessons and incalculable benefits of the organization to her bright future ahead as she proudly soldiers through her freshman year at UCLA.
The Boys and Girls Club is her home and everyone at the club is her family. She reflects, “They have supported me and pushed me to achieve greatness. I have learned many crucial life skills and gained numerous experiences that are definitely life changing.”
Life for Jannyda before the club was not so bright and sunny. She grew up in the projects in a small apartment with her mother and two brothers. Life was difficult enough being the youngest and the only girl. “I never knew my father,” she recalls. “But I always wanted to.”
As for the necessities, her mother did the best she could with what they had—she acknowledges that mom provided the basics, “a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach.
“But the one thing that she did not provide was affection,” Jannyda continued. “She always held back her feelings from me. I never knew why, and until this day, I’m still not quite sure.”
Jannyda’s isolation was not limited to affection, for the entirety of her childhood, she was kept locked in the small apartment with her brothers anytime they weren’t attending school. They were essentially shutoff from the outside world. Into her early high school years she wasn’t afforded any extra- circular activities, a social life or any friends whatsoever.
“It was like living in a cage,” she remembers with great sadness. “I was never given the opportunity to hang out with friends after school or even have sleepovers. We did not have cable television. We did not have internet. We did not have freedom. My mother restricted everything.”
Their living space was sparse and cramped, she remembers with sorrow, “It literally felt like I was living inside a cage.”
Compounding her living situation, when she was at school, she was embarrassed by life she had no control over. “We were not like other families. My mother was incapable of work, so we lived off of government assistance my entire life. We had social security (SSI), medical, food stamps, and Section 8 housing,” she explained.
She was mortified to have to wear ratty hand-me- down clothing most of the time. And the worst part was they were from her brothers. Most years it was difficult for her mother to pay all of the essential bills. Jannyda carried such shame as a child, “People would mock me, taunt me, and just destroy my self-esteem.”
It wasn’t until she found the Boys and Girls Club that her life began to finally change for the better. “It was the club that changed it all and showed me that I should use the things I dislike about my lifestyle as motivation to aim for an even better lifestyle in my future and the future of my own family.”
In 2014, she was nominated to be the Boys and Girls Club of Pomona Valley’s 2014-2015 Youth of the Year. Some of her peers told her that she should not be the Boys and Girls Club’s representative because of her underprivileged and uncouth upbringing. Others picked on her “bad habits” and claimed that she did not fit the role of “Youth of the Year.”
Jannyda’s Teen Director, Lance Holliday, who nominated her, always believed in her. He encouraged her to continue to thrive and prove to everyone who doubted her that she could rise to the honor. Jannyda remembered, “He taught me how to be humble but to not let them silence me. He showed me that my story can make a big impact and let my voice move the people. I was the club’s Youth of the Year for two years and I hold that title proudly because I’ve worked for it. I worked to change myself as a whole. I wanted to be better. I wanted to have a better attitude, a better view, and simply be a better person. I didn’t want to let the negativity going on at home to affect me anymore.”
The Boys and Girls Club taught her so many things about life and how to overcome her own personal struggles. They also taught her how to be a better person through community service. “I didn’t want any of the other people around me to suffer anymore. I wanted everyone—children, teens, and even adults—to understand that there is always a helping hand. You may not find it at home, you may not find it at school, you may not even find it within the circle of your friends, but you will definitely find it at the club. At the club, each and every one of us is special in our own way and we have different potentials.
The club showed me that I had the potential to make an impact among our youth and myself. I have to admit, sometimes I did not want to be the bigger person or hold my tongue when people say hurtful things to me and constantly bring me down. And I know a lot of people can relate. But Victor Caceres, the Executive Director at my club, told me that, ‘Sometimes we simply have to brush it off because the most successful people fight the toughest battles. Not all battles were won, but that did not stop them.’ ”
“The club, the members, and the community,” Jannyda said, “are my motivation.”
VCLF AT WORK
Jannyda is just one of more than 3,000 local kids helped by Boys and Girls Clubs, funded in part by Valley attorneys through their support of the VCLF . Every year the VCLF supports the Boys and Girls Club with financial contributions, from which real and positive results come, like the success of Jannyda Sre.
“The Boys and Girls Club is a great example of an organization the VCLF proudly supports,” says VCLF President Laurence Kaldor. “They are providing great and necessary services to our community, and we are proud to fund their efforts.”
It’s estimated that helping someone like Jannyda costs about $590 per year. That’s right, just $590, to help a child, impacted by life’s challenges, a casualty of the impoverished sectors of our society, yet turning out to be a shining star.
“There are a lot of Jannydas out there in the San Fernando Valley,” says Kaldor. “We’d like to help as many as possible. We love getting large corporate donations, but here’s a very concrete way an individual, an attorney, a judge, or a businessperson can make a real difference. For a donation of $590, we can help another Jannyda right now.”