DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - When 16-year-old Ja'Vonta Swinton reads aloud, his young audience listens intently, absorbing every detail. But, it's the unpublished narrative of Ja'Vonta's own life that touches the heart. Ja'Vonta, an only child, was raised by his single mother while his dad is behind bars.
"In my community, where I am from, people thought that just because I had his last name that I was going to do the same thing," said Ja'Vonta. "But I found the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Boys and Girls Clubs led me down the right path."
Ja'Vonta joined the Jim and Jan Moran Boys and Girls Club in Deerfield Beach 10 years ago when he was only six. It proved to be his saving grace.
He took part in its math and reading programs, learned about computers, engaged in sports and a slew of social activities. Above all, he had a place to go to every day after school and during the summer. It became a second home.
"I just brought him to the club as a place for him to be while I was working not knowing what was in the plans for him and how it's changed his life as well as mine," said Ja'Vonta's mom, Renee Williams.
Today, Ja'Vonta is a thriving teenager, a high school junior with a 3.75 grade point average and aspirations to become a pediatrician. It's for all these reasons and more that the Boys and Girls Clubs chose him as its 2012 Youth of the Year.
"I was chosen because I went there with high confidence," said Ja'Vonta. "Regardless of what, I am still a winner. I went in there and I told my story and that's not having a father in my life, growing up in a single family home and the struggles we went through, and they seen that I was somebody."
"With Ja'Vonta, he really emulates what we hope other kids will aspire to be," added Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County CEO Brian Quail. "This is our way for us to also say thank you to him and how proud we are of him."
From a bleak beginning to a storybook ending, Ja'Vonta is now giving back and looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
For more information on the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, call 954-725-5545 or visit www.bgcbc.org.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.