It is talented, promising, and inspirational young people like Denzell Perry, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) Pacific Youth of the Year, who remind us every day why supporting the amazing work of BGCA is so tremendously important.
A member of the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles for 12 years, Denzell is a perfect example of how a young person’s drive, determination, and strength of character can overcome some of life’s most challenging obstacles.
Denzell will tell you himself that he did not have an easy upbringing. He grew up in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood, wrought with gang violence. Even with two full-time jobs, his mother struggled to ensure he had a roof over his head and food on the table at least once a day.
For the first five years of his life, Denzell had not yet begun to speak, and, while not diagnosed, doctors were certain he suffered some disability.
Yet, at the age of 6, Denzell finally found his voice, both figuratively and literally, when he joined the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles, where he began to thrive.
In the following years, Denzell became continuously more involved with his Club, finding ways to give back and support his fellow peers. He served as Keystone Club president, and as a member of the Junior Staff program. He was elected class president at his high school, belonged to the Black Student Union, and served as a student member of the board of education. When the Club wanted to promote its College Access Preparation program, it turned to Denzell to create a teen-friendly website. He also participated in the Money Matters financial literacy program and SMART Moves, a program to help youth make good choices… something this stellar young man knows plenty about.
“My Boys & Girls Club not only kept me off the streets and out of gangs,” Denzell wrote in his speech for the 2012 National Youth of the Year Dinner in Washington, D.C., “but also helped me go from special education classes to graduating with honors.”
Denzell’s Youth of the Year submission was the first for his Club, which had never participated in any of the previous state or regional competitions. His becoming the Pacific Youth of the Year has energized the Club, and inspired his fellow Watts/Willowbrook members to follow in his footsteps. Some of the teen members have even established a Youth of the Year small-group club.
Now a freshman at the University of California, Irvine, and planning to major in education and pre-law, Denzell is undoubtedly preparing for his next great achievements. In the meantime, we can look back and appreciate not only the impressive impact he has had on his peers, his school, and his community, but the legacy he has left for future members of the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club.
Toyota Financial Services is a proud sponsor of Pacific Youth of the Year and the National Youth of the Year dinners where TFS awards more than $70,000 in Toyota scholarships, and a new Toyota vehicle to the National Youth of the Year winner. Denzel received more than $2,500 in scholarship money, which was raised through the TFS Brand Story contest. The TFS Brand Story Contest gives our associates the opportunity to acknowledge extraordinary and everyday moments where they witness fellow associates delivering an experience that exemplifies the TFS Brand. These stories help our associates visualize a TFS brand culture that builds strong relationships and creates loyalty through extraordinary customer service. For every Brand Story that is submitted, TFS contributes $10 directly to the Youth of the Year program supporting youth in every state. This year more than 2,150 associates contributed 7,444 stories.