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Alumna Shirley Garcia Gives Back as Volunteer Basketball Coach; April is National Volunteer Month

April 12, 2016

Shirley Garcia of Lawrence was 12 years old when she joined the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, where she enjoyed performing with the jazz club, doing community service with the Torch and Keystone clubs, playing pool in the game room, and hanging out with friends at the former club building on Haverhill Street.

Most of all, however, Garcia loved playing on the basketball team - and it is through this lifelong love that she is giving back to the current generation of club kids.

Garcia, who helped cut the ribbon when an addition for girls was added to the Boy's Club building on Water Street in the early 1990s, played all four years as a shooting guard on the Curry College women's basketball team while earning a bachelor's degree in psychology. Following the births of her two son, Garcia returned to school and earned two master's degrees, in general education and special education.

A special education teacher for the past 10 years at Lawrence High School, Garcia coaches the 5th and 6th grade girls' basketball teams at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and oversees the required study hall period for players.

"That's when the teacher in me comes out," she said with a laugh.

Garcia fully supports the requirement that players maintain high grades with strong effort and good conduct at school and the club in order to compete in games.

"I love working with the girls, giving them advice and being another role model for them," Garcia said. "To be able to give them that support means the world to me."

In fact, Garcia credits the club with providing the foundation for her own success. When she was a youth member, she recalls going with staff members to visit private high schools and filling out applications with the help of volunteer mentors. A graduate of Our Lady of Nazareth Academy, Garcia was an honor roll student who played basketball, softball, and volleyball and participated in the drama club and choir.

"It was the club that taught me how to manage my time and responsibilities," Garcia said. "By the time I got to college, it was easy to meet all my deadlines and still have time for fun."

Garcia takes great pride in paying forward those lessons in hard work on and off the basketball court. She also watches with pride as her sons, 10-year-old Earl Jr. and 8-year-old Antonio, develop critical academic and life skills at the club while meeting friends through basketball, dodgeball, air hockey, table tennis, pool, and the Healthy Living Club. Last summer, Earl Jr. also attended his first-ever YMCA camp through a BGCL scholarship.

"The structure at the club couldn't be set up any better to give kids a successful future," said Garcia, who wonders what else she could have experienced and achieved had her parents - who had immigrated from the Dominican Republic - been more aware of all the opportunities available to youth members.

"That's why I love it here. It's a good place that keeps kids off the streets because there are way too many programs not to be part of something," Garcia said. "I hope my kids return someday to give back and volunteer, too."

Stephanie Bryant, volunteer coordinator at BGCL, said there are as many volunteer opportunities as there are needs to be met. "People shouldn't underestimate their contribution, whatever they have to share," she said. "Giving your time and attention to children is such an important way to help your community. And it's fun."

April is National Volunteer Month. To learn about volunteer opportunities at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, contact Bryant at 978-683-2747, ext. 117 or sbryant@lawrencebgc.com. For more information, visit www.lawrencebgc.com.

 

Did You Know?

Over 300 volunteers play a key role in our programs and events.