Spreading smiles to the community


DeKalb Early College Academy senior to represent Boys & Girls Club family

For DeKalb Early College Academy (DECA) senior Jequilla Boyce, each personal interaction is a chance to understand, support and inspire positivity.

“When I can help someone smile, it’s great because I’ve made someone’s day better,” Boyce said. “A smile is contagious. You can’t smile and not have anyone else smile back—that’s just awkward!”

Boyce was named East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club’s representative for Boys & Girls Club of America’s Youth of the Year program, which celebrates teenagers making a difference in their communities through leadership, academic excellence and dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

Boyce said she considers the East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club, located at 1839 Phillips Road in Lithonia, an extended family. She said being named the club’s Youth of the Year representative is a chance to showcase what the club has to offer local youth.

“This is my family,” Boyce said. “If I can let everyone know what East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club did for me, then I’ll feel that I’ve done my part. They deserve it.”

As part of Youth of the Year, Boyce submitted three essays detailing her personal brand, vision for America’s youth and life at the East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club. She will also deliver a speech detailing what the club has provided for her personally.

According to Boyce, her personal brand revolves around being genuine.

“A lot of times in my generation we tend to get lost in ‘the sauce,’” Boyce said. “All of the publicity, who’s popular, who’s not, the politics—it’s nice to just be yourself because it will help our society more than being a copy of something else.”


Boyce’s vision for the youth of America involves self-care and independence.

“Right now, we’re straying from a lot of basic skills like cooking, sewing clothes and changing a tire,” Boyce said. “I have friends who have no idea.”

Boyce’s essay on her life at the East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club is almost a biography, as she has no frame of reference for anything else. A product of the Redan community—she attended Redan Elementary and Redan Middle before moving on to DECA—Boyce started at the club at six years-old and now, 11 years later, plans to always be involved in some way.

“This is my home; I’ve been in every club we’ve had,” Boyce said. “Kiwanis Kids, Culture Challenge, Health Club, Food Club, the track team, cheerleading, dance—they offer everything so I’ve been in everything. I can’t really imagine not having the Boys & Girls Club around in my life.”

Boyce said her culminating speech will involve the importance of every life and writing one’s own story.

“A lot of time, people don’t want to tell their own story because they’re scared that no one will want to listen,” Boyce said. “Everyone deserves to have their story heard. Every story is different. You don’t have to include certain paragraphs to have a story end a certain way. It’s about writing your own story and choosing your own path. That’s what growing up is supposed to be about.”

Boyce attributes the Boys & Girls Club’s appeal to a welcoming and supporting staff. She said each staff member brings something new to the club, whether it is activities for teenagers, field trip ideas or new club ideas. She said East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club staff makes sure every attending child remains upbeat, in line with his or her studies and has something to celebrate.

“There’s always someone to talk to,” Boyce said. “I was just having a conversation with [two instructors] about the difference between raising girls and raising guys and being a father.”

East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club executive director Brandon Riley said Boyce epitomizes the club’s core values. He said she will accurately convey what Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country can offer local youth.

“Jequilla is a shining star,” Riley said. “She just lights up any conversation and makes you feel comfortable. I don’t think she’s afraid of anything—she’s very well polished. That comes from a good grandmother, a good background and a good support system. She makes anyone feel comfortable, even when she doesn’t know them.”

Boyce has almost finished completing enough college credit hours for a general associate’s degree. She said she plans to attend Georgia State University’s nursing school and eventually go to medical school.

While she is considering being an anesthesiologist, Boyce said she would not mind being a psychiatrist to continue to engage, welcome, support and inspire others.



602 total views, 1 views today

Facebook Comments

Leave a Comment - Comments may take up to 48 hours to appear