Naomie Mertus has three amazing kids – Johnny, Eloipher and Ayitagrahard Louifils. She has dedicated her whole life to teaching them the value of hard work and good choices.
You see…life didn’t offer Naomie the American dream she or her parents had imagined for herself. But she was determined to keep fighting and do her best to prepare her kids to succeed in school and beyond.
Naomie remembers back to when she first came to
America from Haiti. It was 1989 and she was 16 years old. Just two months after moving to the states, her world came crashing down. Her mother suddenly passed away. Two years later, her father died.
“It was hard growing up without my parents. The language barrier and culture shock of being young and alone in America was a lot to bear.”
But Naomie, being the resilient force she is, was determined to keep going. During the day, she went to school to earn her diploma, and to make ends meet, she worked a minimum wage job at night.
When Naomie became a mother, she knew she wanted her kids to have a better chance at a fulfilling future. As a single mother who often worked double shifts at Walmart, she needed support. She turned to the Boys & Girls Club to step in.
“I wanted my kids to have structure. I didn’t want my kids to stay home alone watching TV all day,” said Naomie. “I wanted to make sure they were in a safe environment – a place I could afford to take care of them – while I was at work.”
“They were growing out of daycare. An agency told me about Boys & Girls Club. I’m so happy I found the Boys & Girls Club,” she said.
At the Club, her children met staff like Ms. Janice who inspired them to push harder. They built relationships with Mr. Zach, Mr. Knight and Mr. AB who served as father figures in their life. They participated in programs focused on building character and leadership skills and helping them reach their full potential.
Through a new initiative called CareerBound, they worked to build the skills, knowledge, and experience they needed for success in college and career.
They participated in SAT/ACT prep classes, toured colleges and technical schools, practiced interviewing and finetuned resume building, and participated in real world training like job shadowing and internships.
Now, her three teens are thriving and headed toward great futures – exploring careers in high-demand industries in Georgia.
Ayitagrahard, the youngest in the family, recently graduated from Central Gwinnett High School. She’ll be going to Herzing University in the fall on a full scholarship to explore a career in nursing. She credits her extended family at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club for encouraging her to pursue this goal.
Johnny, the oldest brother and patriarch of the family, found an apprenticeship with MailChimp through his involvement at the Club. “One of my most impactful experiences was repairing a computer. I was tinkering with it and that’s what sparked my interest in hardware, and then, I learned about software through the Treehouse program,” remembers Johnny. “Now, I’m about to start my tech career with a respected company that’s offering a good salary and full-time benefits. I’m happy to get an opportunity to help my mom.”
Elo, his younger brother, is also looking forward to what the future holds. He’s also in the Treehouse program. He hopes to earn a degree in chemistry from Georgia Gwinnett College.
Naomie, a proud mom, hopes her journey gives hope to people who feel defeated by the obstacles of life. She says community, education, and exposure are vital to success.
“It takes a village to raise a child and my village has been the Boys & Girls Club.”