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Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Red Mountain Branch Attend National Keystone Conference

Xiuhtlalli Zepeda, Kennise McGertt and Adora Wesley-Howard with Boys & Girls Club President Jim Clark during their trip to Atlanta, Georgia.
Submitted photo

Three members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Red Mountain Branch, attended the National Keystone Conference held June 22-24 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Adora Wesley-Howard and Xiuhtlalli Zepeda, both seniors at Westwood High School, and Kennise McGertt, a freshman at Mountain View High School, attended the conference. The trio stayed in the dorms at Georgia State University and got a chance to experience the campus and college life.

The three also worked on a community-service project with the Friends of the Forest organization, helping prepare soil for native tree-planting in a neighborhood with a forest preserve.

During the conference, they heard from inspiring speakers like John Carlos (former Olympic bronze medalist) and rapper/actor/comedian Nick Cannon; they also attended performances by rappers Lil Yachty and Miss Mulatto.

“I liked everything,” Zepeda said. “There were so many celebrities; I got to meet so many people from different countries. I learned not to be a stranger and to be sociable. I learned that different countries were not the same as America and they had different outlooks.”

Xiuhtlalli Zepeda participated in a community service workshop cleaning up a nearby trail in the forest.
Submitted photos
Zepeda said he attended many conference workshops and a few stood out. “I took a photography workshop and learned about photography, and I also took a workshop called Passport to Manhood, where we learned about challenges and how no matter how bad they are, you can still get past them,” he said. “We met a man who went by the name George who had no arms, and still gets by in life, such as learning how to eat, drink, writing and even playing instruments.

“The dorms were an actual experience for me,” Zepeda added. “It gave me a taste of college life, and I can’t wait to go. This was my second time [attending] the conference. The first time, I went to the National Keystone Conference held in Chicago last year.”

The conference was a first for Wesley-Howard.

“They had this program that was sponsored by Dove on self-esteem. They encouraged you to accept what we are and who we are, and that we all have unique differences within ourselves. I really enjoyed that workshop,” she said. “We also participated in a community-service project where we were able to organize a trail in the forest for visitors to walk on.”

She expressed how she also liked having that hands-on experience of staying in the dorm in a college town and being in the college environment.

“It gives me the experience of what college is going to be like and encourages me to finish high school and get into college,” said Wesley-Howard.

(L-R) Xiuhtlalli Zepeda, Kennise McGertt and Adora Wesley-Howard hold of signs with inspirational messages.
Asked what she is bring back to the Boys and Girls Club for her peers, she said, “I’m bringing back the encouragement to the youth to also want to go to the Keystone Conference in the future, because I learned a lot. And I’m also bringing back the positivity I learned from being at the conference. I made friends with people from different states and also out of the country. We also got to share a little about our culture with others, such as introducing ourselves in O’odham, which everyone enjoyed.”

The group also went sightseeing to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. Last but not least, the teens participated in educational sessions about healthy decision-making.

The National Keystone Conference is for the teens of the Boys & Girls Club. It brings youth from all around the world together to engage and socialize with their peers, explore issues and develop skills to enhance and support their Boys & Girls Club branches.