Jaylen Green is a Converse-wearing, Rubik’s Cube-solving content creator with dreams as big as his heart for others. He’s also the Federal Way Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year for 2018.
Since he was 9 years old, Green, who turned 18 in November, has spent nearly every afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club in Federal Way. He was recently deemed Youth of the Year, elected by a panel of community leaders and city officials.
Since 1947, the award from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America is an effort to foster a new generation of diverse leaders who embody the mission of the club and provide a voice for youth across the nation, according to the website.
“I can say, without a doubt, I would not be the person I am today … if it weren’t for this place,” he said.
Passion overwhelmed Green when asked to describe what the Boys & Girls Club means to him.
“It’s a home … they’ll take care of you,” he said.
It’s the people he’s met along the way who have created a healthy environment for him; the younger kids have prepared him to be a role model leading with kindness, adult mentors have become older brother and father figures to him.
“Honestly, it was a little bit of a shock to me when I first found out about it,” he said about winning Youth of the Year. “Ever since I started going to the Boys & Girls Club and I heard about this award, I kind of saw myself becoming one of these people, speaking about my experience to others and how the Boys & Girls Club has impacted me.”
Green was born in South Carolina and moved to Washington with his mom during grade school. He has lived in apartments his entire life, and from his experience, the complexes weren’t always the best environment.
“Being a kid and living in those conditions, I wasn’t aware of drug dealers and gang members and a lot of the petty crime that went around,” he said. “I wasn’t aware at all. I’d come home from school, hang out with my friends and then go back home.”
As he and his friends grew up, Green said he saw how consequences evolved from the different choices of each person.
“Even the people who lived in the same neighborhood, I notice what paths they went down versus what path I went down,” he said. “It makes me realize that even though I lived in these conditions, I have a bright future ahead of me.”
While Green’s mother was aware of the circumstances, he said she shielded him from the crime until he was old enough to handle the realities of life.
A self-proclaimed “Momma’s boy,” Green said his mother inspires him.
“My experience growing up was more of a positive one because of how my mom brought me up and how she cared for me,” he said. “I saw the good things, but I’m just now realizing how bad of a situation it could’ve been if I didn’t have the mom that I have.”
Various moves to different cities in Washington finally led him to Federal Way where he found his safe haven — the Boys & Girls Club in Federal Way.
Green has been an only child for most of his life. When his mom recently found love, two families merged into one and Green had to downsize his personal space.
“We have to have communication and some kind of synergy so we can work through any situation,” he said. “The reality of it is that there are five people in a two-bedroom apartment. How does that really work? Communication. That is definitely the main factor, and it’s a main factor in anything.”
Although it seems a less-than-ideal situation to most, Green has found ways to cope with life’s changes and the worry of “what ifs.”
“Recognizing that I feel the way I feel and not convincing myself I am in a good mood when I’m not,” he said. “I’m happy I have the mindset I have because I know that I can get through this.”
Green, a senior in high school, attends Highline College in the Running Start program and is earning his associate’s degree in multimedia communications.
“I’ve always been interested in making my own content, that’s what I’m passionate about,” Green said. “I want to develop a platform for myself so I can be a voice for other people, younger people, and spread positivity in whatever I do.”
He uses his life experiences to promote awareness of individuality and develop his own persona in the creative field as a person of color, he said.
“I want people to recognize my creativity and accept it, and realize not everybody is the same, especially according to their race,” he said. “I am black, I don’t play basketball, I wear Converse, I only own one pair of Jordan’s and I like solving Rubik’s Cubes. I want people to realize that not everyone is stereotyped by their gender or race. We can be whoever we want to be and I want to stress that.”
Talking about difficult subjects is a way toward progress, Green said.
“Racism is still a thing and I think people have convinced themselves that it’s not a thing because legal-wise, we’re on all on the same level, but socially, we’re not and that’s the sad reality of it,” he said. “I think people need to recognize that and we need to spread this awareness so people aren’t ignorant toward it so this doesn’t continue on in the shadows.”
Green enjoys conceptualizing, creating — often with a comedic standpoint — and editing all types of media, from music videos to short films and documentaries. He was invited to be a photographer at Highline College’s Black and Brown Male Summit held in November.
“I guess it’s a sense of pride,” he said about his positivity and confidence. “I really feel like I’m meant for something big. In my lifetime, I really feel like I’m going to be someone, an icon, a voice.”
In his free time, Green can be found solving 3×3, 4×4, or 5×5 Rubik’s Cubes at lightning speed and refining his content creation skills.