Shaquille Holzem gives back by mentoring the A/L Boys and Girls Club

Shaquille Holzem, the director of physical education for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Auburn/Lewiston club in southern Maine, stands in the clubhouse gym on Wednesday as some of the youngsters he mentors play back- plan. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Shaquille Holzem’s passions are varied in subject matter but consistent in intensity. Recently transplanted to Auburn from Wisconsin, the 25-year-old director of physical education for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse has combined his previous experience teaching environmental science with his enthusiasm for sport to connect with the community and set an example for its youth.

Is there a story behind your name? Are your parents big basketball fans? I can’t help but think it has something to do with the work you’re doing today. My name is a very rare and unique name. My dad played ball in college and grew up loving it. I come from a family of DIE HARD LAKER fans. My parents loved Shaquille O’Neal. He is obviously a very nice and amazing person also outside of work: creation of an affordable shoe brand for children, his many gifts. When I worked at my old club Shaquille O’Neal was actually a partner of Boys & Girls Clubs of America and I had a nice poster of him hanging in my gym.

What are some of the programs and activities unique to your work? We really try to encourage our members to learn about healthy and active lifestyles. We do more than physical activities and games. I preach sportsmanship and creating a positive environment for growth and development. More than half of our teen members report doing physical activity five times a week. Our teenagers really love basketball and it’s the first thing they do when they come to the club. They come straight to the gym where we play all over the world and focus on shooting form. In addition to club sports, we offer a Healthy Habits program designed for all age groups.

I’ve been working with our youth for seven years and I love what I do. What brought me to work in this Boys and Girls Club is what the organization stands for. There are a lot of underrated young people in the world. I know a boys and girls club provides young people with a safe place to go, a hot meal (which I needed as a kid). We all need a place where we feel loved, appreciated and heard. I went to a club as a kid and remember all the staff I grew up with and the impact they had on me. I want to give back to those who need it most. To help guide our youth to a bright future and empower them to be themselves.

Shaquille Holzem, director of physical education at Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What other club programs are there? We have programs in four areas: health and wellness, academics, arts and leadership. I personally run a program called Passport to Manhood where I teach our 11 to 13 year olds how to be upstanding citizens and good neighbours. We have a wide variety of programs that really lean into the educational side and prepare our young people for what comes next in life. We have programs for all ages. I went to a boys and girls club as a kid and it baffles me to see where we are now. The growth from 10 years ago to now is great.

Does the club have any community service programs you have participated in or in general? As part of our leadership programs, middle and high schools will lead community service projects throughout the year. This weekend, I personally participated in a basketball event that raised money for a family in need. One of our teenage members who prefers to go through DD also helped. She is also our recipient of the Youth of the Year award, which is one of the most prestigious awards you can receive. It was an incredible four hours filled with great basketball runs.

Can you describe the impact the club has had on the Lewiston Auburn community? There are 41,000 children in Maine who have nowhere to go after school. We provide LA children and teens with a safe and supportive space where they can learn and grow. I worked for a club for three years about seven years ago and realized that this organization was something I wanted to be part of. Here I am seven years later where it all started in a Boys & Girls Club. The Boys & Girls Club is truly a wonderful place that provides many opportunities for our young people to grow and become future leaders. Our goal is for members to graduate from high school on time with a plan for their future.

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