Finding pandemic’s silver lining — Youth of the Year joined Boys & Girls Club during COVID-19 crisis


May 8—HAVERHILL — During all the trouble caused by the pandemic, Bret Shaw did find one positive thing — it led him to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill.

A freshman at Haverhill High, Bret was following the school’s COVID-19 rules back in October, attending in-person classes two days per week and learning remotely from home the other three days.

With so many places shut down by the health crisis, he joined the Boys & Girls Club as somewhere to go after the school day.

“I was already coming here three days a week to do my remote learning,” he said of a program the club offered to parents looking for a safe place for their children when they were not in classrooms. “It’s a great place to do school work and it’s a place where I feel safe and welcomed.”

Since joining the club, Bret has made a name for himself there. For all he does to support the club’s mission and serve as a mentor to its younger members, he has been named the club’s Youth of the Year.

Winding down his freshman year at Haverhill High, Bret, 15, a graduate of Consentino Middle School, is considered a rising star at the club.

Shortly after joining the club in October, he immediately impressed staff members with his dedication and commitment to the organization and its younger members who benefit from having a caring mentor.

“Throughout my relationship with Bret, I have experienced someone who shows up earlier than asked, works hard, and carries himself in a polite and respectable manner,” said Jessi Feiner, the club’s teen director who nominated Bret as the club’s Youth of the Year — the organization’ biggest award.

Bret learned about the Youth of the Year program after joining the Keystone Club, a group at the Boys & Girls Club that provides leadership development opportunities for young people ages 14 to 18.

“I thought it sounded cool and that one day maybe I could get nominated for it,” Bret said of the award. “But I never really thought I’d be nominated this year.”

Bret said he enjoys helping younger club members with their school work and playing board games with them.

“I also like playing sports, including basketball and tossing around a football in gym,” he said. “I like interacting with kids …. I think they can benefit from having a mentor outside of their family.”

Bret said his work with younger kids gives him a sense of satisfaction, as does the time he spends with his brother Owen, 12, and their sister Elizabeth, 8, both of whom attend other after-school programs in the city.

“I feel happy to see younger kids learning new things, such as being responsible and being kind to others,” Bret said.

A member of the Haverhill High freshman football team, where he is one of two quarterbacks, Bret hopes to continue playing football when he’s in college and possibly major in business.

Feiner said Bret has demonstrated a great work ethic and strong leadership qualities as he juggles being a student athlete, volunteering in the community and participating in the Keystone Club, serving as its treasurer.

“Among the many leadership roles Bret has taken on, it is his caring nature and open heart that truly made him a strong candidate for Youth of the Year,” Feiner said.

Javier Bristol, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said Bret is a driven young man who strives to be great.

“Whether it’s through sports, volunteering or as a member of Keystone, he’s always up for the challenge,” Bristol said. “We are fortunate to have Bret lead the next generation of club kids for years to come.”

As Youth of the Year, Bret will receive a $500 college scholarship when he graduates from high school.



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