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Friendship to fraternity, a bond between kids who became men.

You Are Who You Hang Out With

Written by James J. Elizondo
Father of Boys & Girls Clubs member James and Alumni of Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio, Calderon Branch

I can easily describe to you the day my parents expressed the words to me, “You are who you hang out with!” Looking back, I can't help but to laugh, not because of what they said, but rather what they didn't know.  What they didn't know was more who they didn't know and that someone was me.
Growing up in the state of Texas, you're surrounded by stories of struggle and survival.  Our family was no exception. Deep in the heart of the West side of San Antonio is where I credit the beginning of the life I have today.  What was routine in the eyes of my parents was anything but routine.  In the fifth grade my sister and I walked through the Casiano Homes just to get to school.  The Casianos was an area surrounded by bullies, drug dealers, and gangs.  At any given moment we could have been cornered, so we ran from complex to complex until we got to school.  There were times we made it without altercation, then again, there were days I fist fought some kid allowing my sister to get away.  With no friends and alone, we survived.
All that changed for us the day my parents enrolled us into the Calderon Boys & Girls Club.  My parents paid thirty dollars for a registration fee which gave us a membership for a year.  Unknowingly, what we saw as a place of recreation became a second home, a safe haven.
On our first day attending my sister and I walked in together.  Immediately I could smell the chlorine to my right and hear the splashes of the pool. We stood gazing through the glass doors, watching in amazement as kids jumped off the diving boards.  We felt like it was a fairy tale.  My sister was so scared to go in, I had to pull her arm until she finally let go of the door.  Then we made our way and toured the facility.  Climbing up the stairs, we found the Golden Gloves Boxing Gym on the second floor which overlooked the basketball courts. 

It was there on that second floor, looking down onto the court, I fell in love with basketball.  I was so filled with joy; I grabbed my sister and ran downstairs. On our way down, my sister discovered Bumper Pool, a game unknown to either of us at the time.  My sister stayed and played while I walked into the gym.

When I finally made it to the gym I introduced myself to a kid who would become a lifelong friend.  His name is, Hector.  Over the course of the year we went from basketball to baseball, then Pop Warner Football.  What started out as meeting one kid turned into a team.  There was Hector, Manuel, Jerry, Anthony, and later Oscar, Erick and Tony.  Our friendship developed into a fraternity, a bond between kids who would one day become men.

What I found was a connection to the path of the life I was to have. Despite the age difference between us at one time or another, we all played together on teams or played on the same fields or courts, competing against each other’s statistics.  Regardless of the outcomes of games it has been the outcome in life that had kept us close for over 15 years.

Today we are all grown men, living good lives, being the best parents we can possibly be.  Among us our professions consist of law enforcement, marketing, construction, sales, coaching, military and medical and yes, parenting.  To go back to my parents comment, well, it is summed up pretty simple, not only am I who I hang out with, but also, I am who I believe I could be.  Thank you Calderon Boys & Girls Club.\

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