Being uprooted from friends and familiar surroundings can be tough for any 14-year-old. But the move from Michigan to the Southeast Valley was especially rough for Kolby Nielsen when he failed to make the cut for his new junior high's basketball team.
He loved basketball and was determined to play … somewhere. His uncle, Tyler Vasquez, worked for the Mesa Grant Woods Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley and encouraged Kolby to join the club's team. Even though his new home was in south Chandler, he jumped at the opportunity to play the sport he loved, to make new friends and, as it turned out, to set and achieve some crucial goals for his life.
Eight years later, Kolby Nielsen is Youth Development Director at the Grant Wood Branch, enjoying helping kids develop their own interests and talents as he pursues his career. "I love it," he says of his work at the club. "And I think it's really cool that I'm back 'home' again in the club where it all started."
As it turned out, a few months after his move from Michigan, a new Boys & Girls Club branch opened in Queen Creek, so he made the switch from the Mesa club. Being closer to where he lived, it soon became his second home where he could play sports and other games, do his homework and hang out with friends. He soon started volunteering at the club, helping out with the younger kids.
Kolby was named the Queen Creek club's first Youth of the Year in 2009, and after graduating from high school he was offered a full-time job as computer lab supervisor at the Guadalupe Boys & Girls Club. He worked there until he was offered his current position at the Grant Woods Branch last July.
The Boys & Girls Clubs' philosophy is what captured and kept his interest over the years: Provide a safe, fun place for children and teens to develop their athletic, academic and creative skills under the supervision of knowledgeable, caring staff.
"Being able to help every kid find what they're passionate about, and encouraging them to pursue it, is what the Boys & Girls Club is all about," Kolby says. "I'm glad I'm here, and I know these kids are too."
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