When I was sent from Haiti to Miami, South Florida, to join my mother here, I lost the community that had been central to my well-being as a child. I did not see a clear path forward in my new home. Then I joined the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, where I rediscovered community.
Even before I spoke English well, my cousin Dan took me to the Pompano Beach Boys and Girls Club, where we spent hours playing video games, basketball, and indoor soccer. The staff and kids made me feel like I belonged, and as the days became weeks and the weeks became months, the Boys and Girls Club became my new place of comfort. My English got better and so too my confidence grew, replacing nostalgia and loneliness. Here, at least, were others who were interested in the same things I had enjoyed when I was in Haiti.
In a very real way, the local Boys and Girls Club became my safe sanctuary in a scary world—and for that, I will always be grateful. Later on, years after I aged out of the Boys and Girls Clubs, it came to my rescue when I could not afford my university tuition by giving me a scholarship to attend Florida Atlantic University.
Now it is my turn to give back. My memoir, Twelve Unending Summers: Memoir of an Immigrant Child, will be published May 22. I will be donating a portion of book sales to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, Florida, which made such a difference in my life.
As a young person, I learned emotional intelligence from my community. That has allowed me to face challenging circumstances—homelessness, undocumented immigration status—and overcome them to follow my dreams and become a physician. I would like to give other young people this same opportunity.