Holiday Fund: Clubs provide youth with gift of opportunity


Gifts to the Almanac's Holiday Fund help the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. Donate today.

By David Cruz, development associate, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.

Maria walked in to the Boys & Girls Clubhouse in east Menlo Park on the first day of her freshman year of high school. She was shy and hesitated to participate in club activities.

It was here that she met Desiree Caliguiran, the clubhouse unit director. Desiree, a former teacher who takes pride in knowing each of her students, soon discovered that Maria's mother and father had been incarcerated and that the experience had dramatically affected Maria's outlook on life.

These traumatic events, coupled with health complications, had required Maria to leave her school and move into a home-school program during middle school. She was losing hope.

Desiree spent time with Maria every day, developing a personal relationship as a mentor and confidant. She became the consistent, caring adult Maria could trust and rely on for emotional and academic support.

"Desiree is fully aware of my life situations and is there for me, when I need her," Maria says. "I like that I have someone to go to. I haven't had that before."

The clubhouse is a place of hope for Maria and young people with stories such as hers. Adults like Desiree serve as positive role models who encourage youth to work hard to pursue their goals.

Youth thrive in the clubhouse culture, where members encourage each other to pursue academic achievement, develop new skills, and participate in enrichment activities.

For a young person facing challenging circumstances, Maria continually shows enthusiasm and resilience. She envisions a better reality for herself and her family, and wants to become a lawyer after college.

"I want to be a lawyer to help people. Education will help me little by little if I invest my time now," she says. "I want to go to any college, and I will go to any college and work hard because that's what it will take for me to accomplish my dreams."

Now, no longer a shy participant, Maria excels at school and in the club. She spends her afternoons and evenings in the clubhouse, where she loves to read, participates in culinary classes, and is an enthusiastic member of the video production elective.

Each day, she receives 90 minutes of homework help and she's receiving no grade lower than a B.

When asked to reflect on her future, Maria says: "I am not letting my home situation stop me from pursuing my dreams. I'm proud that with all I'm going through, I am still working toward a great future."

By partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, you can provide our communities' youth with the best gift anyone could ask for the gift of an opportunity to work hard toward a great future.

Each year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula provides expanded learning time opportunities to more than 1,900 under-served youth at nine locations in eastern Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City. Members, ages 6-18, attend at least twice a week during the academic school year and receive tutoring, mentoring, and academic support.

Visit or contact David Cruz at or (650) 646-6132 to learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs, or to get involved.

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