Meet Diadys, Kips Bay's 2020 Youth of the Year!

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Diadys Cepeda

My Clubhouse Experience

 

I grew up in a neighborhood where, even in plain daylight, letting your children step outside those rustic doors put fear into your heart as a parent. Seeing my mother create a cross over her chest always followed by the same request. The movement became so mundane in neighborhoods like mine where the lamps casted silhouettes of poles instead of light because no one cared enough to fix them. A new and unfamiliar structure brought about a vibrant color on this grey monochrome display of apartment buildings. My mother would call “Diadys” from our window to let me know to come inside when her worry began to creep in. Then the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club opened its doors to families with children like me who’s parents longed for their kids to expand and grow larger than the only space they could afford, the place they called home. Becoming a member of an organization like the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club welcomed unprecedented positive growth and change into my life by introducing me to sides of myself and many other amazing people I had yet to meet.

Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club provided me with the room to grow, a room to share, and a room to learn in all in one place. The staff provided kids in my neighborhood with an environment for us to finally be able to bloom in without fear getting in the way. There were a number of programs that the staff had available for us that really helped me flourish. In Kips Bay, I found my calling for softball/baseball and was able to take my first steps in my athletic career. It started innocently, in our fourth floor gymnasium. I was encouraged to engage in the baseball games that they held in the gym and because of the other kids and staff, my love for it began to grow. It became my introduction to what a team felt like and pushed me to expand outside of Kips Bay, unlocking opportunities for me. Not only has this program helped me with softball, the staff has also taught me how important volunteer work is. In communities like the ones I grew up in, it’s important that we work together to help clean and save the places we call home. Keystone club is a huge factor in my desire to always want to help people and my environment. It brought people together, close friends or acquaintances, and allowed us to do great things in community service. Other programs like Smart Girls or Passport to Manhood enabled kids to begin questioning the world and understanding the complexities of life. In these groups, the staff inspired young girls like me to speak up for myself. It empowered me to know that we share so many experiences and yet we prosper. As a child, its clear that these programs paved the way for who I’ve become today. I am able to go into the world with an open mind and an open heart because of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club and met some of the greatest people along the way.

Lasting relationships start in places like this where everyone is invited and everyone has something in common. Living in a neighborhood like ours, it was difficult to feel safe outside of home or school. I was able to continue to build relationships with classmates from school but also with new people. From a young age, I found a group of friends that I call my family now. Since our cadet days, we have always looked out for one another. My best friend, Justice Carrero, shared the same family. Some of our closest friends, like Jalen G. and Michael R. also play a huge role in who I want to surround myself with. Even though we met young, these boys have grown into amazing and caring people who thank Kips Bay for allowing us to establish a foundation for our friendship. These young men became the older siblings I never had and taught me things about the world that I feared and I thank them so much. Not only was I the youngest of the four, I’m also the only girl. They allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin and not force myself into things that didn’t fit who I was. These people push me every single day to do what I love and support me in every part of the way and I support them equally. Not only was I able to establish lasting relationships with them, I also found staff along the way that became role models for me. Although there were a number of staff that helped me when things got difficult, I can say that Darril has always been there from the start. In fact, I have him to thank for giving me the confidence to pursue my athletic career and everything that follows. Before this, I would hide behind others, I was afraid to even show my face, let alone be the only girl playing baseball. His encouraging words unlocked parts of myself that I needed to develop and gave me the nudge to start on my journey. Although he started as just my gym instructor, he became a mentor that I know I can talk to when things get tough. I value my Kips Bay relationships over all these years, my entire family does in fact because they’ve taught me to take leaps, regardless of how scared I am.

Kips Bay has improved my life and I am so thankful that I took part in this establishment as it has given me the space and first set of stones on my path called life.