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Audio Transcript: Leighton Boys and Girls Club
By Aram Leighton SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) – – The Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse has helped foster the futures of local youth since 1892. Today, the club serves over 1,000 members annually from six different locations scattered all over Syracuse. At The Boys and Girls Girls Club, members play sports, read books, receive computer training, go on field trips, and do just about anything children love to do while making friends. Jeffrey Eysaman, the Director of the Central Village Boys and Girls Club believes the foundation is vital to a community like Syracuse.
“Our goal here is to be the bridge between school and home. These are areas of high needs, these are children who are at risk, these are children who have things in their neighborhood that don’t necessarily allow even basic stuff,” he said.
Syracuse has steadily found itself among the worst poverty rates in the country, with 47% of the city’s children under the age of 18 living in poverty according to the Census Bureau. Eysaman cited neighborhood violence and crime as reasons why he is so motivated to help provide a safe place for children to go when they are not in school. Within the last two weeks, there has been two shootings within a block of the Central Village center. He believes that it his responsibility to not only educate the children on the neighborhood violence and help motivate them to change the community, but also help them grow as individuals. For Eysaman, it was never in his long term plans to become the Director of a Boys and Girls Club, but he says once he formed connections with the children, there was nowhere he would rather be.
“Their growth, their progress, their success, are things that get me up in the morning. I can go out and finish a marathon and I wont feel as good as if I watch one of my kids really work through an issue, really work through a problem, and then solve it and then have that victory moment,” Eysaman said.
Those “victory moments” are what continue to bring 14 year-old, Potifera Sindagagaya back to the Boys and Girls Club. Sindagagaya is one of the longest tenured members of the club, approaching four years since his first day. Sindagagaya says that without the Boys and Girls Club, he is not sure where he would be.
“If I never came here I would probably be a different person, I probably would never listen to my mom, so this helped me discipline myself so I can learn to listen to other people that are older than me and younger than me, so I can treat people how I want to be treated,” he said.
Sindagagya is one of the several members who have attended the club since Director, Jeffrey Eysaman was given the title. Sindagagaya credits Eysaman for his long membership at the club.
“When Mr. E (Eysaman) came, he changed everything. Because once I turned 13 he said I could stay because he saw how I was good and he didn’t want me to change because where I live is not a great place so he took me in, ever since I’ve been coming here,” he said with a smile.
One thing that is instantly obvious the second you walk through the doors of the Central Village Club, is the connection and friendship the children have. Eysaman shared a story about one of the members who had recently gotten in a car crash, that resulted in the girl’s mother breaking both of her legs. The children were so shaken that the Eysaman and other volunteers assisted the children in driving them to the girls house to go keep her company.
The children are given incentive to be the best member they can be with a “Member of the Month” award every single month, which includes a prize of $20. For Sindagagaya, winning Member of the Month was one of his most proud moments in his nearly four years with the Boys and Girls Club. Rather than spending his earnings, the fourteen year-old gave the money to his mother, in hopes that they could “save up and move out of this neighborhood,” he said.
While financial donations are greatly appreciated, Eysaman mentioned that donating time can be just as valuable to his club and to the kids.
“For these kids, you may be who they’re striving to be, just your presence and how you are with them and where you wanna be. Your dream may become theirs so to me it’s not about dollars and cents, but its about surrounding these kids with people who not only care about them, but who can model great behavior for them,” Eysaman said.
To sign up to volunteer or to donate visit: WWW.BCGSyracuse.com.