Chyna Manley is a different girl thanks to the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas.
Chyna, a 7-year-old second-grader, was adopted by her aunt, Sharlunda Manley. After moving to Tyler from Houston, Ms. Manley needed an outlet for her energetic daughter after school. She found a perfect match in the Boys & Girls Clubs via Chyna’s attendance at Bell Elementary.
“Chyna has so much energy, I can’t have her just sitting around. She needed to be able to burn that off. So the Boys & Girls Clubs was offering (an outlet) for that. Not only to be able to burn the energy, but to help her with her homework and to be involved in other play activities and after-school programs,” Ms. Manley said.
Chyna’s attendance has worked wonders for her, Ms. Manley said, as she’s made friends and shown a transformation in both her academics and personality.
“She’s not shy, but she didn’t talk a lot. But now that she’s been in the program she just is more outgoing, more talkative and she loves that program. It has just made her blossom,” Ms. Manley said. “She’s doing better in her academics as well. She has learned to do so many other activities.”
That improvement comes thanks to the attention and dedication of the Boys & Girls Club staff, like Jennifer Jacobo, site director at Bell Elementary.
“When we met Chyna for the first time, I was like, ‘Wow, she has potential. She has something in her, she can be a leader.’ So when she came in she didn’t know her ABC’s. I had a one-on-one with her and took her step by step. She would get frustrated, and I would encourage her, and that’s our goal (with kids), to encourage them,” she said. “It was amazing to see the progress this year. We kept trying and working with her, and now she’s able to say her ABC’s and write them without getting frustrated. She smiles a lot more, and we really enjoy that.”
But it isn’t just Chyna who benefits from her participation. Ms. Manley, a single mother, said she has learned how to better identify with and connect to her adopted daughter thanks to the organization’s work.
“It’s helped me to understand Chyna better. Chyna is adopted. She’s my niece. My children are older,” she said. Chyna is 7, so it’s just shown me how to better interact with children because they don’t come with a manual and I had to start all over.”
What Ms. Manley didn’t expect was for the organization to exhibit compassion for and attention to her child from its highest level locally.
“When she did join the club, one day she was very upset. I don’t know if it was because she couldn’t tie her shoes or if it was because she was doing her homework and couldn’t get her alphabet correctly. So the (executive director) of the Boys & Girls Club, Kevin (East), … he went over and asked what’s wrong. It ended up being that she couldn’t tie her shoe, so he tied her shoe,” she said. “At that point she just calmed down, and it made our relationship stronger because he made himself so personal to her. It made us closer to the program.”
The result is a child who is enriched and who can’t wait for her next opportunity to join in on what the Boys & Girls Club has to offer.
“Chyna never wants to miss. She doesn’t care what they’re doing or not doing, she wants to be there every day,” Ms. Manley said.