To the Kids of Cleveland, Ohio
I know what it’s like to grow up in our neighborhood: violence, drugs and the temptation to make wrong decisions. However, I also know there are great opportunities for you here and my story proves why you should take advantage of them.
Growing up on East 79th in the inner-city of Cleveland, I was the youngest boy in my family. Both of my parents were blind and I am both hearing and visually impaired, which led me to having a speech impediment. In school, people made fun of me, saying I looked and sounded weird. I started to avoid talking in quiet settings and I created this whole persona, acting like I didn’t want to be friends with other people even though I did. While in class, I couldn’t hear the teacher very well, but because of my pride and ego, I didn’t want to tell anyone. For a long time, I didn’t have the confidence to speak up.
Some of my family and friends, who I looked up to, smoked and drank. Occasionally, they asked me to join them, I was very tempted to say “yes,” and sometimes I did because I wanted to be “cool.” I wanted to fit in. But more often than not I said “no” because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.
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For many years, school and social settings were hard for me, but my life began to change in my sophomore year of high school. That was the year I decided to go out for the wrestling team.
During my first year of wrestling, I lost a lot of matches. But I didn’t give up and I learned the value of hard work. I strived daily to grow as a wrestler. It eventually paid off. In my junior year, I overcame the odds and won a city championship. And my senior year, I became a team captain, won another city championship and qualified for the district tournament.
Also, because of wrestling, I was able to find some real friendships. During my senior year, I needed to have an eye surgery which resulted in me missing a lot of school. Without asking, my teammate went to all my teachers and brought my schoolwork to my house. He didn’t want me to fall behind. So, he did what he could to make sure I graduated on time. It made me feel special and appreciated and to this day, we are still close friends.
Wrestling taught me how to grow from losses and disappointment. Through the sport, I learned how to set goals and achieve them. Also, it gave me a chance to make healthy relationships that have helped me move forward in life instead of going down a dangerous path.
After wrestling, I became the first in my family to graduate college. I got married and now I am the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Beat the Streets Cleveland. We provide free wrestling, mentoring and leadership programs for kids just like you, kids who are in kindergarten through 12th grade. Through our programs, we hope to teach you to be leaders in your community.
The life skills you can and will obtain at Beat the Streets Cleveland will carry over into whatever dreams you want to pursue in life – just like it did for me.
Without wrestling, I would not have the confidence or the work ethic to be the man I am today. And while I know it can be tempting to give in to the peer pressure that surrounds you, I hope you join Beat the Streets Cleveland and take advantage of the chance to be a part of a family that fights more than just its opponents, as we will help you fight for your future.