Cary Center program helps youth cope with tragedy

Margaret Stewart | Auburn, AL

Lauren Reynolds Faulkner and Shanecia Little pictured outside of the Cary Center.

Lauren Faulker, Cary Center Director of Programs, and Shanecia Little pose for a picture outside of the Cary Center.

No one can be prepared for the horror of the death of a family member. Shanecia Little and her three younger siblings were no exception.

In June of 2017, their mother was killed through an act of domestic violence. However, thanks to programming from the Boys & Girls Club of Opelika, Ala., and the Cary Center at Auburn University, she had the confidence to step up and take responsibility in the wake of a tragedy.

“In seventh grade, I didn’t know anything about saving money, financial aid or how to apply for jobs,” Little said. “But I’ve used those skills to apply for a summer job and save up for college.”

Little is 17 years old and has been attending the Boys & Girls Club for seven years. She has been going to REAL Cents REAL Change, a program offered to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lee County by the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, since 2013.

Little graduated from Opelika High School on Friday, May 25, 2018 and plans to go to Troy University to be a social worker.

“I like kids, I like seeing people happy and I want them to know they can overcome every situation and see there’s always good that will come out of it,” said Little when asked why she wanted to go into social work.

The REAL Cents REAL Change program teaches lessons of entrepreneurship, public speaking, etiquette basics, money management, leadership, philanthropic involvement and volunteerism.

“Through all the topics we cover in REAL Cents REAL Change, it gives the kids self-confidence to be on their own,” said Lauren Faulkner, Drummond Thorne Stukes Director of Youth Programs for the Cary Center. “It gives them something to look forward to because they know a little bit more about life and opens their eyes to options after high school and beyond.”

Little was nominated for the Boys & Girls Club award, Youth of the Year, in 2018 and won for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lee County’s Potter-Daniel unit in Opelika.

Youth of the Year candidates are nominated for “excellence in character, leadership and outstanding service in the community and the Club.”

Little said this process also allowed her to tell her story and gain confidence in her public speaking abilities while learning a lot about herself.

“Wherever I go, I will always encourage people to be involved in the programs like [REAL Cents REAL Change] that the Boys and Girls Club offers because of what it did for me and my sisters.”