If you told Kiersten London eight years ago she’d one day give monologues in drama class, she wouldn’t believe you.
The recent Fernandina Beach High School graduate has overcome extreme shyness and social anxiety and now aspires to be a nurse.
Several years ago as a pre-teen in a new community, Kiersten found it difficult to open up and make friends. She was also bullied at school.
In addition, Kiersten’s home life was challenging. Her mom was a single parent, and her father was incarcerated when she was a toddler. Her great-grandmother was her primary caretaker. Kiersten would go home to her after school daily until, one day, her great-grandmother enrolled her in the Boys & Girls Club of Nassau County.
“At first, I was terrified to leave the comfort of her home and attend the Boys & Girls Club,” Kiersten said. “I was reluctant and thought no one would be my friend.”
But little did Kiersten know this experience would change her life.
Once at the Boys & Girls Club, Kiersten found she now had a safe, nurturing, healthy place to be with children her own age and adults who provided the much-needed support and guidance Kiersten was missing.
She received tutoring to help her maintain her grades; enjoyed playing games with her peers; developed a passion for creative,self-expression activities, including visual art and drama; and joined character and leadership societies. She even served as president of Keystone Club at the Roberts Learning and Achievement Center and president of Teens for Change at Fernandina High School.
Through these activities, Kiersten was able to improve her social skills, make friends and succeed in school. She also was able to access and develop important mentor relationships with Boys & Girls Club staff and volunteers.
“Ms. Phebia, one of the game room staff members was always there for me,” she said. “She helped me overlook the negativity. She showed me it’s OK to be the new kid because everyone will want
to be friends with the new kid. She also told me it’s fine to be shy at first, but I need to come out of my shell because, at [Boys and Girls Club], no one will ever judge me.”
Kiersten now attends Florida State College at Jacksonville to complete general-education courses and plans to transfer to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta to study nursing. Once she receives her nursing degree, she wants to return to Fernandina Beach and work at Baptist Medical Center, she said. She decided to become a nurse after she worked in the intensive care unit and emergency room two summers ago, a mentorship opportunity made possible by her Boys & Girls Club.
Kiersten’s story is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of lives changed by United Way of Northeast Florida and its partners every year. Invest in United Way of Northeast Florida so everyone can reach their full potential.