COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Boys and Girls Club is a home away from home for a lot of its members, and Austin Leathers is no exception.
"When you come into the club there's always a bright smile and the little ones are always running around saying hey to everyone, trying to give you hugs and they always wanna play," Austin said.
However, it wasn't always like that for him.
“When I first started coming to the Boys and Girls Club, I really didn't want to come, I just didn't have a choice … but after I started coming for a while I started to enjoy it. I started swimming, I learned how to swim, I started playing different sports" Austin explained.
Austin grew up in a single parent household and said he didn't feel like he had anyone he could really talk to about his problems. His mom worked two jobs and was enrolled in college, so he had to stay home often and look after his younger brothers.
"When I came to the club I felt like I could trust the adults so I always had someone to talk to about the hard things that were going on," Austin said.
He's been able to establish close relationships with several people at the club, especially Ms. Tiffany who helps with the youth.
He said the Boys and Girls Club has also helped him come out of his shell.
"When I was little I was quiet, so the Boys and Girls Club helped me get open and meet new people and not be scared to talk to new friends," Austin said.
He also gives back to the younger kids at the club by lending a helping hand, whether it's with homework or teaching them something new.
He credits his time with the organization for their positive influence on his personality.
"The Boys and Girls Club has had a big influence in my life because if it wasn't for them, I really wouldn't know where I would be at in life and I wouldn't know how I would act in certain situations," Austin said.
Whatever the future holds, he now feels prepared thanks to his time in the club.
"The Boys and Girls Club I feel like has always helped set me up for whatever is challenging or come on in life."