Short on Opportunity, Long on Potential

What do Shaquille O’NeilDenzel Washington and Jennifer Lopez have in common? You may be surprised to learn that they are all alumni of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America! Recently the City had a chance to sit down with the new CEO, Aubrey Merriman,to chat about his vision for the Boys & Girls Club of Northern San Mateo (BGCNSMC), which is located right here in South San Francisco at 201 W. Orange.

For over sixty years, Boys & Girls Clubs of North San Mateo has been a pivotal community resource, serving the young people with the greatest needs in Pacifica and South San Francisco. Established in 1953 as the South San Francisco Boys Club, the Club has expanded to include six sites, four in South San Francisco and two in Pacifica.  The Club was among the first in the nation to advocate for the inclusion of girls, and in 1972 the organization’s name was changed to reflect its commitment to promoting positive outcomes for all children, regardless of gender.

Meet Aubrey Merriman.  One of nine kids, Merriman grew up in a low income household in Montreal, Canada. At a very young age, he was exposed to social workers and said, it’s that exposure that led him to where he is today. “I was driven by that passion to help people get through difficult times in life.” Merriman was no stranger to difficult times, which ultimately had him lean on the Boys & Girls Club. When he was about 10, one of the coaches developed an interest in him. As he grew older, that interest led to a basketball scholarship to Ryder University in New Jersey. He finished his college career in Hawaii where he studied social work as a graduate student.

During the 12 years he spent in Hawaii, he worked in public housing projects in the youth intervention program using sports as a gateway. Merriman said he enjoyed working with people that are “short on opportunity and long on potential.”

January 4, 2016 brought him a new challenge as CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern San Mateo.

Sitting down with Merriman, one is quickly inspired. “I believe everyone has a personal narrative. It’s a journey that gives you the courage to write your own narrative.” As the new CEO, Merriman says he has three goals:

  1. Help people to unearth their sense of self,
  2. Help people contribute to the world, and
  3. Help people realize their full potential

“I believe there are two things you can control in life – the effort you put into something and the attitude you have.” Believe us – Merriman certainly is putting a lot of effort and positive attitude with the more than 2,600 children (ages 6-18) BGCNSMC serves annually. You can tell on the children’s face when Merriman walks into the room – not only is there delight and joy, but respect. Same goes for his staff.

Today, BGCNSMC operates six sites, including three school-based sites and three clubhouse facilities. They have an average attendance of 300 children per day, during out-of-school time throughout the school year and summer.  “Belonging to a Boys and Girls Club is often a life-changing experience. Children can build healthy, supportive relationships with caring adult role models, which in turn can positively influence the life path they choose. Clubs also encourage healthy, respectful relationships with peers and family members.”

If you were wondering whether there really was a need for the BGCNSMC, check out these statistics:

  • 24% of South San Francisco students failed to meet standards for English Language Arts/Literacy
  • 28% failed to meet standards for Mathematics

Economically disadvantaged students face an even greater struggle:

  • 37% did not meet standards for English Language Arts/Literacy
  • 42% did not meet standards for Mathematics

“The Boys and Girls Club is a not a nice to have – it is a need to have, particularly for the many young people that are short on opportunity but long on potential.”

Additional resources:

Boys & Girls Club Flyer

Interested in more? Read a recent article in the Daily Journal about Merriman.