Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year: Finalist Joshua Leigh

((Source: WTVM))
Updated: Feb. 1, 2019 at 9:36 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Fifteen-year-old Joshua Leigh hasn’t always felt accepted. The Jordan High school 10th grader says he’s much more confident now after he says he was bullied in elementary and middle school because of his smile.

“I have a gap in between my teeth and people used to always talk about me,” says Leigh. “It was hurting me on the inside, but I never showed it on the outside.” Leigh says the teasing affected him deeply and caused him to change.

“It made me feel sad. I did start failing my grades because I hated going to school.”

But Leigh loved going to the Boys & Girls Clubs, something he’s been doing since he was nine-years-old. It’s a place where he is always accepted and bullying of any kind is not allowed.

“The Boys & Girls Club has a zero tolerance against bullying, so if the staff finds out, you could get suspended immediately or dealt with,” Leigh says.

Boys & Girls Clubs Teen Directo,r Robin Reed, remembers Leigh during that time. She says his story was similar to her own because she too had been teased about her teeth when she was younger. She believes sharing her story with Leigh made all the difference.

“We got to talking and he told me his story, and I shared my story and he started opening up more,” says Reed. “He just started to change and started to be more involved and I just love him and I told him you’ve just got to tell my story,” she says.

Leigh hopes to follow in his sister’s footsteps - she was last year’s Youth of the Year winner. More than anything, he says he wants his story to inspire others who may be going through a tough time.

“My granddad always taught me it what’s you answer to. Just because someone may say something about you doesn’t mean you have to answer them back or pay any thought to it. So just ignore them and keep it moving and hang around people that are positive that will lift you up.”

Even though, Leigh says he is a lot more confident about his teeth and his smile, he does plan to get braces in the future. He participates in the JROTC program and says math is his favorite subject. He attends the North Boys & Girls Club.

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