RICHMOND, Va. -- For the first time in its 70-year history, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond (BGCMR) has its first Black President & Chief Executive Officer as it has elevated Sean Miller to the position.
"It's full circle," said Miller, who previously served as Chief Operating Officer and held his current role on an interim basis following the departure of the last President and CEO. "I had role models in my life and they really set the tone. From my parents -- my mother, father -- all the way down to my coaches, my principals, things of that nature. The fact that I had a positive role model and I wanted to become them."
Miller, a graduate of Huguenot High School, has served with BGCMR for nearly 20 years over two stints and estimated he has come across around 15,000 kids during his time -- long enough to have seen some of those kids return as staff members.
"It feels really good to run into an alumni. It feels good to hear from them that 'Hey, I remember this program. I remember this engagement, I remember this activity.' But, the honest truth is that what they're saying is they remembered me as a person, they remember the experiences that we may have had or that they had," said Miller. "Us being able to play a part in their growth and advancement has been really, really exciting. And, ultimately, them being able to pay it forward, as well. So, it's almost like we've got that token and we're playing tag is they attend to carry that torch."
Among his accomplishments in his time with BGCMR was helming the efforts to turn a former East End shopping center into their Teen & Community Center, which was finished in 2021.
"Everything that you see here is a result of not me as an adult or to staff as adults…We listened to kids, they want visual and performing arts, we have an auditorium. They wanted a home theater, we had that stuff. We have technology, microphones, cameras…this is us literally listening to our kids and having them tell us what they want to do and then us trying to make it happen as the adults," added Miller.
As for his goals as CEO, Miller said he wants to continue to expand the mission of BGCMR. Both physically, with another 12,000-square-feet of unused space in the building where the Teen & Community Center is, and program-wise, expanding on their focus to prepare middle and high schoolers.
"We want to expand our reach and that might not mean in total numbers that could mean in depth. That could also mean in terms of engaging with different types of programs…Right now, we're excited about some different opportunities around workforce development and career pathways is something that's really important," said Miller. "It's really about looking for when you're trying to figure out 'What's my pathway? What's my interest? And not limiting yourself to a job, but opening yourself up to a career. How do we build upon any and every skill that you have that could add on to something else."
One of those kids who has been finding her path through BGCMR is A'Landa Macklin, 18, who has been a member of the club since she was six.
"It's like a second home to me," said Macklin. "Just going to the club, it's opened my eyes in various different ways. I've been able to meet a lot of friends -- and they're no longer my friends, they're like siblings to me. The staff played a huge role."
Macklin said she has taken part in various programs during her time and is currently a part of the Keystone Club, a leadership group, and working on a podcast to bring bullying to the public's attention.
BGCMR also let her experience some firsts, including her first flight when she attended a Keystone conference in Orlando.
"I was actually terrified. That was the scariest moment of my life. But, it was actually really fun because it had a great outcome. I went camping for the first time with the Boys and Girls Club," said Macklin. She added another was lobbying lawmakers at this year's General Assembly, where Miller got her to speak to a group of other Presidents and CEOs. "Just by being at that meeting and Mr. Miller actually wanting to hear what I have to say and what I thought about the situation gave me that leadership role and I was really thankful for it."
Macklin, who is Black, said having Miller be the first African American in the CEO position is inspiring.
"By him being the first it's eye opening -- that we can really do whatever we put our mind to and if you work hard enough, then it can get done. And Mr. Miller, he's an amazing human being," said Macklin. "Just having someone like that, that you can look up to, it really gives you that drive that you can do whatever you want and if you want something - then go for it."
For Miller, he said that is what he hopes to do.
"The responsibility that I think I have now is to make sure that kids can see me and that they can actually be whatever they want to be," said Miller. "I never would have guessed that this would have been a position I would have been in, but this is something I've been prepared for and looking forward to the challenge."
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