This is a banner year for Se’Quoia Sims. The Jordan High School senior graduates next month and will attend San Jose State University in the fall where she’ll be on track to become the first member of her family to graduate college.
Sims is also a member of the Jordan track and field team, and a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach where she has been named the Youth of the Year.
The award is given to one of the three Long Beach high school juniors or seniors who are nominated to tell their stories about how the club changed their lives.
“They just gave me a chance to be a kid,” Sims said of the club. “It changed the way I deal with things, and people, because everything that was taking over my mind I was able to turn it into a positive.”
Sims won a $5,000 scholarship and a new laptop after the judges deemed her speech the best of the three nominees at an April 6 event at Hotel Maya. Sophie Villegas-Castro from Long Beach Poly and Jordan Crowdus from Cabrillo were the other finalists. They were given a $2,500 scholarship and a laptop.
“It’s about coming to the club, getting volunteer hours, having a GPA over 3.0 and planning to attend college or a trade school,” said Erika Parrish, Events & Development Manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach. “I get goosebumps every time I tell (Sims’) story.”
Sims was a shy, quiet kid when her family moved to Long Beach in 2010. She was getting bullied at school and didn’t want to fall in with the wrong crowd so she started going to the Boys & Girls Club more often.
“It gave me new opportunities than the community I was raised in,” Sims said. “I saw them helping other kids and I just wanted to take a chance and see what they could do for me. … I used to get bullied so I just let them know what I was going through at school. I was going through bad depression and mental health.”
“She found her voice through coming to the club where she found the first person to tell her she was beautiful and she finally started to believe it,” Parrish said. “She grew up witnessing a lot of gang violence and didn’t want to go down that path. She kept coming to the club to be surrounded by positive influences.”
“Someone really thought I was beautiful when I was getting called ugly, so that helped give me the ability to take leadership roles,” said Sims, who was voted the Most Inspiring Student at Jordan.
Sims is one of the best track and field athletes at Jordan. She finished third in the Moore League and qualified for CIF Southern Section competition. Sims said she wants to study forensic science at San Jose State.
“She’s a very strong young lady,” said Lamar Biffle, who is the Jordan Athletics Director and Sims’ forensic science teacher. “When you listen to her talk about her background and everything she’s built, she’s very humble, strong and confident.”
“We’ve had kids throughout the years who have come from homelessness, all different types of abuse, foster care system, single-parent homes, … they’ve all come to the Boys and Girls Club and it’s transformed their lives and given them point to be successful and the tools to get there,” Parrish added.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach serves over 3,500 people by providing meals, teaching literacy and counseling on body image. They charge only $15 per student per school year.
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