BE GREAT: Graduate - Dylan's Story
"All of this has been possible through my hard work, my mentor Louie, the support of my family, friends, and the Boys & Girls Club."
Dylan is a Boys & Girls Club member at the Ron Sandwith Teen Center in Federal Way who has overcome a disability and went from dropping out of school to graduating a year early.
“Growing up, school was never my thing. First grade was a huge struggle,” said Dylan. “This is when I found out that I had problems hearing. Because no one knew about my disability, I ended up repeating the same grade over and over. Once I discovered it, I was constantly seeing doctors, getting hearing tests and then had multiple surgeries. This meant missing a lot of school. I didn’t want to tell my friends or teachers about these issues because I wasn’t comfortable talking about it.”
“After skipping a few classes and being truant, I realized I was digging myself into a deeper hole of failure and wanted to drop out of school,” said Dylan. “I was in need of a mentor since I was a high risk youth, so my school counselors paired with me Louie Grill from the Ron Sandwith Teen Center in Federal Way. Becoming a member of Boys & Girls Club really helped me at that time.”
Louie Grill is Program Director at the Teen Center, has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club for eleven years and is also a former Club member. Louie helped Dylan with positive youth development by creating a safe and fun experience with supportive relationships, opportunities and recognition while holding him accountable. With the support of the Executive Director, Louie mentors Federal Way Club members at the Teen Center, in their schools and on the weekends.
To provide Dylan a stronger path towards graduation, Louie talked to Dylan’s teachers about his hearing loss and helped Dylan get caught up on his school work.
With Louie’s support, Dylan became part of the Club’s BE GREAT: Graduate program. It’s designed to prevent high school dropout rates by enhancing each Club member's engagement with consistent support and one-to-one mentorship from caring and trusted adults. The focus is on improving academic, emotional and social skills.
In addition to the Ron Sandwith Teen Center’s 70 BE: GREAT program participants, BGCKC also conducts the program at the Southwest Club with 100 participants and Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse & Teen Center at Rainier Vista with 25+ participants. The Ron Sandwith Teen Center in Federal Way exceeded their BE GREAT: Graduate attendance goal with 86% of participants improving their school attendance and 94% of participants reducing their number of behavior-related referrals at school.
“If it wasn’t for Louie, I don’t think I would have believed in myself and become so motivated,” said Dylan. “He always gave me a safe place to talk. I eventually made the decision after talking with my sister to leave high school for a diploma completion program called Gateway to College,” said Dylan. “I knew I had more potential than just being a high school dropout. I told my mentor Louie about the program and he and I checked it out right away. Before I knew it, I was enrolled.”
“Kids need someone to listen to them,” said Louie. “Other Club staff members and I went to a high school and middle school to talk about the importance of mentoring and the schools led us to kids in need. Dylan was one of those kids. We talk with Club members about what they need help with and strive to keep good relationships with the schools and parents.”
“In Dylan’s case,” explained Louie, “Dylan lives in an area where his safety can be compromised and where he’s witnessed and been around crime. The Club gave him a safe place to go and concentrate on his life and future. I have been mentoring Dylan since he was in the sixth grade. I’m so proud of him.”
“I really care about my future now,” said Dylan. “My experience being mentored has been great and I even received my high school diploma a year ahead of schedule. All of this has been possible through hard work, my mentor Louie, the support of my family, friends and the Boys & Girls Club,” said Dylan. “I treat the Boys & Girls Club like my family now, because they are always there for me.”
"I enjoy facing challenges, because they are not to be feared, but to be overcome."
"I couldn't even count the number of places we lived and for a while, we were homeless," said Khairi, an 8th grade student at Kilo Middle School and member of the Federal Way Teen Center. "Friends and the Club staff have kept me going. Club staff members are always willing to help me with homework, sports and lift my spirits."
Khairi is 14 years old and has had a home life filled with difficult challenges. He doesn't always have enough to eat and the Club provides food and stability for him when he needs it after school.
His day starts at 4 a.m. where he carves out a little time to read and write. His chores begin with cleaning the kitchen every day. With three younger siblings using their small kitchen, it doesn't stay clean for long. Khairi, his mother and siblings live in transitional housing across the street from the Teen Center.
"The Club is always more positive than being in my crowded apartment," said Khairi. "At the Club I am able to be me and not be responsible for so many other family members. When I leave it each day, I miss being with my friends or talking to the great Club staff. I really enjoy participating in the fun activities."
It's the Club that allows Khairi time to do homework since he's usually preoccupied with chores and helping his siblings at home. Khairi enjoys that time to focus on school.
"I really like my classes equally and I'm exceeding in all of them. I love to learn new things. I like facing challenges, because they are not to be feared, but to be overcome," said Khairi. "I feel I can do anything if I try. I refuse to quit."
A "meeting standards" grade for Khairi isn't good enough he explains. "My goal is to always be exceeding. I put in a lot of work into researching how to exceed standards. My notebooks are full of information. I like to work fast and efficiently."
One of Khairi's favorite programs at the Federal Way Teen Center is the Power Hour, where staff and volunteers help students with homework. If students do not have homework they can help others read or participate in activities like a game of chess. Khairi really enjoys reading and learning new things. His hope for the future is to be an architect, or to work in engineering or technology.
"I am a technology genius," said Khairi beaming. "I am always trying to prove to my family that I am going to be successful. It's great that the Club gives me a chance to focus on school."
In addition to concentrating on academics, Khairi plays football, basketball, track and baseball.
"Sports keep you busy so you don't hang out with the wrong crowd," explained Khairi. "At the Club you meet others who want to have fun and work together. Sports are important to me too and I was worried about not having shoes that fit to participate, but thanks to the Club's running program; sponsors gave me a free pair. There are so many cool things about being a part of the Teen Center."
Khairi's message to other children and teens is if you do not have any place to go: find a Boys & Girls Club where you can get homework done, have fun, and meet other kids.