Editor’s Note: Diamond Davis recently spoke to Gap Inc. employees at a celebration for the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco newest clubhouse, which will be named in honor of Gap Inc. co-founder and life-long BGCSF volunteer member Don Fisher. A recent college graduate, Diamond is applying for law school, working full time and interning at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.
I don’t feel like I ever left the Boys & Girls Clubs. And that’s because, to me, when you join this Club, you become a member for life.
I joined the Excelsior Clubhouse in San Francisco at the age of 8. I was a kid from one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in the area.
It was my older brother who first showed me there was a place I could go that was safe, supportive, and fun. Every day after school, he’d go to the Boys & Girls Club’s recording studio, and he’d take me along. One day the studio director came to me and proposed that I write my own rap lyrics. Nobody had ever suggested that I could do something creative like that – and that night, I wrote my first rhymes, and I recorded them the next day. Much to everyone’s surprise, including mine, I was really good. It was a turning point; I got hooked on the club. It showed me that I could have a voice and express myself, and it gave me a positive outlet to talk about the issues going on in my life.
At times my life felt hopeless, like I couldn’t help but be trapped in a cycle of crime and violence. But as I spent more and more time at the club, the staff taught me how to move beyond my pain, to keep focused on my future and believe in myself.
I came to understand that I had to make education my number one priority if I wanted to succeed. The club supported me with programs like Gap’s Achievement Matters, homework help, and one-on-one tutoring.
I learned job skills and job readiness at my club through Gap’s Career Launch program that I’m still using today. Not only did the program help me earn my first paycheck as a club teen staffer, it helped me get a job in high school over the holidays working at Old Navy.
When it came time to think about college, the club provided free SAT prep classes, took me on college tours, and even provided me with a scholarship. With their support, I got into Cal Northridge and moved to Southern California to pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer.
Back home, my sister was in a near-fatal car accident. I had little choice but to take care of her. I tried to keep up my studies, but it was unbelievably stressful. There were times when I was seriously tempted to drop out and give up.
Luckily, I had some place to turn. I knew I couldn’t do this alone, so I reached out to the club. They told me that Don Fisher had introduced them to something called the Transfer Alliance Program. The program allowed me to enroll in community college near home and put me on track to transfer to a University of California school.
I got into University of California, Berkeley, maintained a 3.0 GPA, and I graduated in May. I also achieved my degree in four years, despite all the bumps in the road.
While I never had the chance to personally meet Mr. Fisher, I know I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it weren’t for him. In my years at the Boys & Girls Club, I’ve come to understand that behind the scenes there are people like the Fishers and Gap who care about kids and make the clubs possible. They have shown me the value of giving back to my community.
I know there will be other challenges ahead of me. But, whatever the future brings, I’ll always be able to rely on the club and the caring adults that refused to allow me to fail. And the lessons of hope that I learned—of believing in myself, of perseverance, of having faith that tomorrow can be better; this is what I mean by “member for life.”