By Ginger DeShaney
Owen Rogers credits the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club with helping shape the person he is today.
“A lot of us who have been there since we were 6, we wouldn’t be the people we are without the Club,” said the Edgerley Club’s 2022 Youth of the Year. “We wouldn’t have any of these opportunities and resources that keep us in check … which is amazing. I can definitely say the Club is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
“It’s been my No. 1 lifeline my whole life.”
Owen said he was excited when he found out he won this prestigious award out of five applicants. “It’s nice to be able to be a role model on a larger level for some of the younger members … have a larger voice within the Club.”
Two Club staffers in particular played large roles in Owen’s life: Anne Gordon, who retired last year after 50 years at the Club, most recently as arts director and summer camp director, and Mike Mogan, teen director.
“Anne Gordon gave me a career. She helped me form an identity. She definitely shaped me … into the person I am today,” Owen said. “Anne was able to take a curious 6-year-old boy and give him the resources to create and learn about the arts in ways that most kids could never imagine doing.”
And Mike has “been a huge inspiration my whole life; he has been super helpful. He kind of guides me and makes sure I’m on the right path, which is awesome.”
Anne said she’s so excited for Owen. “He really enjoyed all aspects of the Club. It’s been great to know him. He’s a very thoughtful kid. It’s going to be bittersweet to see him go off to college.
We really watched him blossom. He really has been exemplary on many different levels.”
Mike said Owen’s award is well-deserved. “Not many kids do as much and are as dedicated to the Club as he is. He’s grown into a natural leader. Anything we need done, he jumps up and does it. He’s the perfect role model for these kids.”
Owen also gives credit to his grandmother, Roberta Rogers, a guidance counselor. “She was always an inspiration to me and she’s definitely been my biggest mentor throughout the years. She’s my No. 1 supporter.”
When Owen started going to the Club, he was kind of shy, but one of the first things he got into was the art room. “That was my go-to,” he said. “I would go in there, do whatever the daily project was with Anne and all that fun stuff. And homework was a big one.”
As he got older, he really got into swimming and the swim team. The staff drew Owen to swimming in the first place. “The staff was super welcoming, especially when I first started, kind of encouraging. It’s not very judgmental at the Club. They do things to kind of push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
And now he’s doing the same thing, teaching swim lessons to all ages, from 6-year-olds to 13- and 14-year-olds.
“The Club kind of guided me over the last 11-12 years … leading me down the right path, which I’m extremely grateful for,” Owen said.
He’s been captain of the Club swim team since seventh grade. And he’s president of the Keystone Club, a teen leadership program that organizes community projects.
But the standout experience for him was the Club’s two-week trip to India right before the world shut down because of COVID-19. “Nothing tops that; it was amazing.
“And I just fell in love with exploring,” added Owen, who at 15 was the youngest Club member on that trip, his first time traveling internationally. “And I caught the travel bug from that.”
With confidence from his years at the Club and the Exploring India trip, Owen will be studying abroad for his college years. “[The trip] pushed me so much out of my comfort zone and if I didn’t do that program, I’d probably be staying in Boston.”
Within the next couple of weeks, Owen must decide between Anglo-American University in Prague and University of Greenwich in London. He was also accepted into colleges in New York, California, and Hawaii.
The Boston Latin Academy senior, who has a 3.3 grade-point average, will be studying business entrepreneurship. And after he gets his business degree, he will study for an interior design degree, which stems from his time in the art room and the Museum of Fine Arts program with Anne, as well as his internship with an interior design studio through the Club’s Ready to Work program. “I can confidently say that I would not have been able to discover and embrace this interest of mine without the Club or the dedicated staff.”
Studying abroad is a lot less expensive than studying in the States, Owen said. And he’ll have a $20,000 scholarship for being named Youth of the Year to help him.
The son of Kacie and Tim Rogers, who were Club kids themselves, goes to the Club right after school every day, getting there around 2 p.m. and staying till about 7:30. The Junior Staffer (lifeguard, swimming lessons teacher) works at the Club Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays but even when he’s not working, he’s at the Club bouncing from room to room and making an impact on the kids.
“[Being a lifeguard is] one of the few roles of the Club where you get to engage with all the members from all age groups,” said Owen, who grew up in Southie but now lives in Dorchester. “It’s nice that I get to build a connection with everyone. It’s really awesome to do that.”
The Club has always been his second home. “It’s just amazing the way it shapes kids,” said Owen, who made all of his lifelong friendships there.
“The staff are so dedicated to the Club and just making it a better place for us all. Every person that works in that building is amazing. And I’m very grateful for them.”
As much as he can, Owen plans to give back “to the Club and the people there who have helped me … because I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now and have all these opportunities without the Club. I’m super grateful for that.”