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August 8, 2013

From Member to Mentor

by PBUnitedWay

wpid-Steve-Cornette-Arminda.jpgBoys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is one of the Town of Palm Beach United Way’s partner agencies that is changing lives. But don’t just take our word for it. Here is one story of many from alumni, Steve Cornette.

Meet Steve.  It has been said that “you may not know where you’re going, but you know where you’ve been,” and that sort of describes the journey I have taken for much of my adult life.  As I watch clips from the new public service announcement for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America which touted the slogan “Great Futures Start Here,” I  could not help but reflect on my own experiences as a Club Member when I was a boy, and how I am hopeful that  those experiences will continue to positively impact my hopes and dreams for the future.

I have come a long way since the days when I first enrolled as a member of the West Palm Beach Boys & Girls Club.  I remember that it was in late 1992 or early 1993.  I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, and had just suffered the tragic loss of my oldest brother, who was killed in a canal near our home.

My family was totally devasted by my brother’s death, which only added to the problems we were already facing in the home. Shortly after my birth, my father had been paralyzed from the chest down in a fall.  My mother was forced to become the only bread winner in the family.  This, of course, put enormous stress on her, as she in effect became both the mother and the father in terms of providing and caring for me and my older brother. To make mattets worse, her emotional state was so precarious after my brother’s death, that it became difficult for her to deal with the emotional needs of me and my brother. Consequently, our lives seemed to just unravel right in front of us.

As I recall, my behavior got worse and worse.  My mom did everything she knew to do to try to get me under control, but nothing seemed to help.  I was terribly confused and angry, and knew no way to express it, other than to take it out on my family and those around me.  I was rebellious and oppositional at school.  I did not want to listen to anyone. Needless to say, I stayed in “hot water” with my parents and teachers.  To compound an already difficult situation, a year after my brother’s death my father committed suicide, leaving my mother to deal with two disturbed and grieving boys, when she was barely able to deal with her own grief.

The day my mom enrolled me at the local Boys & Girls Club was a day I will never forget.  I was opposed to going at first, but when I got there and saw that the kids seemed to enjoy so much what they were doing, I felt that it would be good to give it a try.  So I began going everyday after school.  I started to play basketball and found that I loved the competitiveness of the sport.  It became my passion, a passion that would lead to me becoming good enough to earn a college scholarship and later pursue my dreams of playing professionally.

It was also where I first learned how to interact with other kids outside of my family.  I looked up to the man who managed the club, who we always called Coach.  He had a young son of his own, and seemed to instinctively know how to handle me when I got out of hand.  He may never know it, but I learned a lot from him.  He taught me about consequences, and about the importance of having a good attitude.  He never let me get away with anything, and for that I have always been grateful.  In fact, it was his insistence on me being my best that helped to instill in me a desire to be the best I can in everything I do.  I have carried that with me all these years, and try to live up to it daily.

When I became the director of the local Boys & Girls Club, it was the most incredibly satisfying experience of my life.  Now I have the opportunity to apply the same principles that I learned as a boy to helping young boys and girls get through the sometimes difficult years.  Many have issues to deal with that are far greater than my issues were, and I work hard to instill in them the importance of things like getting along with others, doing well in school, behaving responsibly, and taking care of their physical selves.

As the old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”. Now as never before these kids need the support of the entire human village. I hope that I can always be an important part of that village by being their mentor, role model, and supporter in the things that will provide them an opportunity for a great future. My name is Steven Cornette and I am a product of The Boys & Girls Club.
Thank you for your support of the Town of Palm Beach United Way. It helps fund organizations like The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, making success stories like Steve’s possible.
Since 1945, the Town of Palm Beach United Way has invested more than $60 million into Palm Beach County because of donors like you. Although some of the needs since 1945 have changed, the Town of Palm Beach United Way is still helping people who struggle with hunger, homelessness, job loss, abuse, mental illness, and more. To find out more about the Town of Palm Beach United Way visit www.palmbeachunitedway.org. On behalf of the community that we serve, THANK YOU for the difference you make.

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