In a time of personal crisis, Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester was the safe place LaCarrie Byer needed when searching for an afterschool program for her sons Derrel and Jabriel. Alternatives for Battered Women, now Willow Domestic Violence Center, referred her to the Club and she was immediately drawn to the various programs the youth development organization provided, as well as its low annual cost of $11.

Derrel plays basketball

Derrel “Max” Harris became a Club member at the age of 7. While he enjoyed playing carpet ball and ping pong in the Game Room and spending time in the computer lab, his favorite activity was basketball. Max played Biddy Basketball, a league offered by the Club at the JV and Varsity levels, until the age of 13. He learned both basketball and life skills on the court.

“I enjoyed being able to play with different people at different levels,” said Max. “I developed the heart to always push myself, no matter who I am playing with. The skills and attitude I learned from Biddy helped me at the Varsity level at school too.”

Reggie Smith, health and physical education coordinator at Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester, was a large influence in Max’s life. “Reggie taught me to be responsible and to man up,” said Max. “He encouraged me to be tough, on and off the court. He didn’t want me to get discouraged or be too hard on myself, but to work hard and know that if I wasn’t getting my homework done or behaving at home that it would impact my practice and playing time – those things were important and always came first.”

At 12 years old, Max was playing basketball at the varsity level at The Charles Finney School. He was in 7th grade.

Max is currently a senior at Finney, where he plays both basketball and football. In his high school basketball career, Max has made 326 3-point shots, just six shy from the New York State record.

Being a student athlete, Max knows the importance of excelling in school. He credits a lot of his time management and passion for doing well academically to Sean Smith, education coordinator at Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester.

“Mr. Smith was always there for me, not only in regard to homework, but anything I needed,” said Max. “He is a lifetime mentor.”

Because of his achievements in sports and academics, as well as his good character and well-rounded personality, Max was chosen to represent Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester as this year’s Youth of the Year. After preparing speeches about his Club experience and the impact it has had on him, Max participated in the Western New York Youth of the Year competition at the end of April. He took home third place and received a $1,000 scholarship.

“It was a very memorable experience,” said Max. “It helped me realize what I can do and what I am capable of. It pushed me to be a better person.”

Max looks forward to playing basketball at D’Youville College in Buffalo in the fall, where he’ll join fellow Club member and 2016 WNY Youth of the Year Wanya Bruce. Max plans to study physical therapy and get his doctorate degree, a tremendous accomplishment that his mom is also looking forward to.

Congratulations to Max on all of his achievements! We can’t wait to see what his future holds.