BELMONT HEIGHTS — Damiyah Young, 15, has visited the Wilbert Davis Boys & Girls Club weekly since second grade.
It's a special place where the Middleton High School student does more than make friends and participate in after-school activities.
Damiyah also has served as president or vice-president for a handful of organizations based at the center located in Belmont Heights.
"I've learned how to be a leader and I've learned about team work," she said.
On Thursday, communications giant AT&T — in partnership with United Way Suncoast — donated $18,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay to help it build up more leaders like Damiyah.
The money will finance the club's Reading Pal program, which matches students in grades kindergarten through three with volunteers who provide extra reading support.
It's estimated that about 170 Tampa Bay students this school year will participate in the Reading Pals program, which aims to improve children's reading skills and impart a love of reading.
On hand to help celebrate with students with a game of horse-style basketball was Tampa resident and WWE wrestler Titus O'Neil.
It's a program AT&T is proud to support along with other community stakeholders, said regional director Ed Narain.
"It's always great to bring community leaders together to spend time with the kids and see first-hand the impact our contribution is making," he said.
Ricky Gallon, director of strategic projects for the Boys & Girls Club, said the program is one of several designed to complement students' education.
"This will help us to ensure these kids stay out of trouble," he said.
A familiar face at the center, O'Neil's presence always excites students, Gallon said.
"He has a special way with the youth," he said. "He's so kind."
O'Neil, who is a club alum and now an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club America, said giving back to the organization is a sense of duty.
"People invested in me when I had nothing to give in return," he said. "I'm just happy to be part of the commitment to motivate and inspire kids."
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]