When Jaelen Bussey first started in afterschool programs as an elementary school student, he would describe himself as someone with low self-esteem who got nervous speaking with others because he was often bullied for the way he looked.
With the help of his family, the marching band and the Boys & Girls Club Jackson Teen Center, Jaelen is today a charismatic, passionate and self-built people-person who hopes to continue to have a positive influence in his community after he graduates from Camden High School in May.
Selected from a strong candidate pool, Jaelen has been named the 2018 Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands Youth of the Year. He will receive a $2,500 college scholarship from Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company to attend S.C. State University to study computer science and engineering.
“Boys & Girls Clubs taught me responsibility and leadership. My experience has been on the list of things I will never forget,” said Jaelen, who was selected for his dedication, hard work and ability to be both a mentor to younger students and take suggestions and coaching from those mentoring him.
Jaelen started with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands in elementary school and continued into high school at Jackson Teen Center. One of his most memorable experiences was creating the documentary “I am the Evidence” in response to proposed federal budget cuts to afterschool programs. In this documentary, he showcases that these programs provide the out of class help that many students need to break out of their comfort zones.
“Jaelen is a big part of the future and is already on track to create changes in today’s world,” said Brian Mayes, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands Jackson Teen Center Director. “He has already used his excellent communication skills to make a positive impact on the community as he was also named Youth Spokesperson of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands.”
From his first day at the Jackson Teen Center, Jaelen was asking questions about issues concerning youth, politics and poverty. Mayes’ response to Jaelen was to never leave the world like you found it. And since that day, he hasn’t.
On April 25-27, Jaelen will compete against other Boys & Girls Club members from across the state to become the South Carolina BGCA Youth of the Year and possibly win additional scholarships.
The Colonial Life scholarship is part of a grant for the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands’ Be Great Academy program.
“Supporting public education is a priority focus for Colonial Life and by investing in partnerships such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, we’re able to expose students to enriching activities beyond the typical school day in a fun, relaxed atmosphere,” said Marie McGehee, community relations manager at Colonial Life. “This scholarship is a great way for us to recognize students’ outstanding achievements, exceptional character, proven leadership and passion for community.”