Shaquille Holzem, the physical education director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse, stands in the gym of the clubhouse Wednesday as some of the youths he mentors play in the background. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The passions of Shaquille Holzem are varied in subject but consistent in their intensity. A recent transplant to Auburn from Wisconsin, the 25-year-old physical education director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse has coupled his previous experience teaching environmental science with his enthusiasm for sports to connect with the community and set an example for its youth. 

Is there a story behind your name? Are your parents big basketball fans? I can’t help but think it has something to do with the work you do today. My name is a very uncommon and unique name. My dad played college ball and grew up loving the sport. I come from a family of DIE HARD LAKER fans. My parents loved Shaquille O’Neal. He is obviously a very likeable and amazing person as well outside of work: creating a shoe brand kids can afford, his numerous donations. When I worked at my old club, Shaquille O’Neal actually partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and I had a nice poster of him of him hanging in my gym.

What are some of the programs and activities unique to your work? We really try and encourage our members to learn about healthy and active lifestyles. We do so much more than just physical activities and games. I preach sportsmanship and creating a positive environment for growth and development. More than half of our teen members report engaging in physical activities five times a week. Our teens really take to basketball and it’s the first thing they do when they come to the club. They come straight to the gym where we play all around the world and focus on shooting form. In addition to club sports, we offer a Healthy Habits program that is designed for all age groups.

I have been working with our youth the last seven years and love what I do. What brought me to work at this Boys & Girls Club is what the organization stands for. There are a lot of underappreciated youth in the world. I know that a Boys & Girls Club gives youth a safe place to go, a warm meal (which I needed as a kid ). We all need a place where we feel loved, appreciated, and heard. I went to a club as a kid and remember every staff I grew up with and the impact they played on me. I want to give back to those who are in need most. To help guide our youth to a bright future and allow them to be themselves.

Shaquille Holzem, physical education director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What are some of the other programs at the club? We have programs in four areas: Health and wellness, academics, arts, and leadership. I personally run a program called Passport to Manhood where I teach our 11- to 13-year-olds how to become upstanding citizens and good neighbors. We have a huge variety of programs that really lean in on the educational side and preparing our youth for what comes next in life. We have programs for all ages. I went to a Boys & Girls Club as a kid and to see where we are at now baffles me. The growth from 10 years ago to now is great.

Does the club have any community service programs that you’ve participated in or in general? As part of our leadership programs, middle and high school will lead community service projects throughout the year. This weekend I personally volunteered for a basketball event that helped raised money for a family in need. One of our teen members who prefers to go by DD also helped out. She is also our Youth Of The Year Award recipient, which is one of the most prestigious awards you can receive. It was an amazing four hours filled with great basketball runs.

Can you describe the impact the club has had on the Lewiston Auburn community? There are 41,000 kids in Maine with nowhere to go after school. We provide the kids and teens of L-A a safe and encouraging space where they can learn and grow. I worked for a club for three years about seven years ago and realized that this organization is something I want to be a part of. Here I am seven years later back where it all began at a Boys & Girls Club. The Boys & Girls Club truly is a wonderful place that allows our youth ample opportunities to grow and become future leaders. Our goal is for members to graduate high school on time with a plan for their future.

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