NORFOLK — At 10 years old and growing up in Virginia Beach, Antoinae Staton’s mother signed her up to become a member of the Boys & Girls Club’s Rosemont unit — a place she now refers to as her “second home.”
That was nearly 20 years ago and today, Staton is the director at the organization’s Tidewater Park unit in Norfolk, and she said her relationship with the organization is comparable to that of a family.
“I will never not be involved,” she said. “I could never turn my back on the children because nobody ever turned their back on me.”
Staton is just one of the 99 members from the past and present who were interviewed and echoed that same sentiment in the book, 100 Voices for 100 Years, in celebration of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia’s 100th anniversary.
The organization authored the book in collaboration with Norfolk Academy’s Literacy Fellows — a program that allows the school’s high school students to write and publish works with its publishing arm, Catapult Press.
David Kidd is an English teacher at Norfolk Academy and edited the book as the director of the Literacy Fellows.
He said the student writers interviewed people ranging from business leaders like Anthony Jernigan, president and CEO of an investment services firm, to a 7-year-old who attends the program at Rosemont.
While some of the interviews remember the organization going back to the 1950s, Kidd said the sense of family and the positive encouragement kids receive remained consistent through the eras.
“All the things family can ask of you and do for you, it seems to be what the Boys & Girls helps bring,” Kidd said. “With a real sense of community and a sense of belonging.”
Staton said she learned early on she could be herself in the after-school program and was emboldened to tap into the “leadership spirit” a staff member would tell her she had.
Kidd unveiled the book with a reading and celebration Sept. 24 at Tidewater Park Elementary where an eighth-grader said she’s also become a leader in the Boys & Girls Club.
“The Boys & Girls Club is a good opportunity for kids,” she said.
Helping the children reach their full potentials now goes even further with its school-based sites like the one Staton directs at Tidewater Park Elementary.
“I’m inside the school and able to build a relationship with the children’s teachers to help them be successful,” she said. “I had help with homework but now, if I need help with a question, I can go down to room three and ask the teacher and she’ll come help me and the child.”
Despite the title, there are only 99 voices in 100 Voices for 100 Years with Kidd being the 99th and asks readers to be the 100th by contributing to the Boys & Girls Club’s mission in their own way.
“They’re doing things like amusement park trips, college tours, and basketball games and they need community leaders who are connected with these organizations who can help those kinds of things happen,” he said.
100 Voices for 100 Years, is the Literacy Fellow’s seventh published book as a program and all of its proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia to ensure the children’s priorities continue to be the focus for the next 100 years and beyond.
“It’s all about ensuring these children can take care of themselves when they’re adults and have common life skills,” Staton said. “It’s the reason I do what I do.”
100 Voices for 100 Years is available for $10 when picked up from the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia’s administration office at 1300 Diamond Springs Road in Virginia Beach, or for $16 by clicking here.