Life Lessons Learned at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire

Surafel reading to a studentSurafel became familiar with the Sioux Empire United Way funded agency, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire, over 7 years ago when he was in elementary school. “My dad came here on a visa. Then decided to bring our family over. We came over for a better opportunity, a better life, a better education. I went to Annie Sullivan Elementary School. After school a bus would take us to the Boys & Girls Club each day. I just needed a place to stay until my parents got off work. The Boys & Girls Club was a perfect fit for me because it had basketball and all of the activities I needed. There were a lot of kids from East Africa that we didn’t know that came to the Club. So it became a place for us to come together, spend time and be comfortable.”

Surafel came to know Khalid, a Boys and Girls Clubs staff member. “He was like the big brother I never had. Every time I would come, he would teach me life lessons with basketball drills.” Surafel has carried those life lessons and basketball drills into his role on his high school team. A year from now, he is hopeful to be playing basketball in college. Regardless of sports, his goal is to be a full time college student.

In the fall of 2020, Surafel entered the Boys and Girls Clubs workforce development program. He engaged in a number of classes to build employment skills and understand financial management. He began his internship with the Club at Horizon, at first as a substitute. “After meeting the kids, I realized they had the same story that I did. Some of them came from Ethiopia, the same as me. I knew how to speak their language and we really bonded. I really wanted to stay there. It was a perfect fit, so I asked my supervisor.” Surafel is now a regular staff member at the Horizon ClubHouse, providing opportunities for kids just like him. As a club member and now employee, lifelong success is why the Boys & Girls Club is a second home to many youth.
Surafel was recently named Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire Youth of the Year. He will go on to compete at the State level in Pierre with the opportunity to advance to the Regional and National competitions. Surafel also recently received a college scholarship and will be attending in North Dakota this fall. Surafel is just one example for the impact made through United Way investment in the community.