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Meet Claressa Winston of Club Xhell Youth Life Center in South Metro Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claressa Winston.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Stubborn! Ambitious! Visionary! Problem child! These are the traits that established my existence. Coupled with the nurturing environment of my elders–parents, aunts, neighborhood leaders– a place was created for me to flourish. If just in my imagination, that place was warm, caring, and unselfish. In my mind, that place would mimic my experiences at the local Boys and Girls Club in South Central Los Angeles.

As a child, I was taught the importance of a strong work ethic. I could see the results of working hard demonstrated by my parents, my aunts, and Dr. Brown, director of the South Central Boys and Girls Club. I did not have to imagine the rewards. They were evident and tangible.

Of course, I did not come to these conclusions right away. Transitioning from a private Christian school where I was not the model student to public school where I was no longer in a position to bully anyone, I took the opposite route and became an excellent student.

At Bretheart Middle School in South Central Los Angeles, I succeeded in “finding my voice.” This voice would be the driving force throughout my life up to and including today! My creativity blossomed from just singing in the car with my mom to joining the school’s speech club, writing poetry, and pioneering a step club.

Fast forward to today: Club Xhell Youth Development Center was birthed in 1999. A vision to provide parents, especially those raising children alone, a one-stop after school center. A place to support parents by safely caring for the adolescent child with love in addition to assisting in the character development of each child placed in my care.

We distinguish ourselves from a “day or after “care” center because at Club Xhell we seek to address the “whole child.” We want to provide a family-like setting that will either mimic or establish a family experience that will nurture our child attendees. We seek to develop a child’s character such that they are positioned to be successful on a daily business… not just when they “grow up.” We target the middle school child. The period of time that an adolescent is experiencing his or her most tumultuous development.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Smooth roads are not always good roads. A road can be smooth and filled with ice! Does that make it a good road! Of course not! A few bumps give traction. They slow the process which can yield a better outcome. My bumps have included family matters, health matters, and business matters.

Staying committed when the world around you is shattering requires tenacity. For me, I was able to battle spiritually family members who wanted more from me than I had to give. My faith has always been the path, the invisible road if you will, that keeps me focused…

Having begun the organization in 1999, it would be 12 years later I would be in the position to begin youth development programs. Health matters hit hard in 2012. I lost a year of productivity. In 2013, I took another huge risk! I liquidated assets in order to purchase a stand-alone building for Club Xhell. Six years later, we have outgrown the building!

Please tell us about Club Xhell Youth Life Center.
Club Xhell Youth Development Center is designed to help adolescent youth find their voice, and discover their gifts during out of school times. Our mission is to provide character development, academic support and enrichment programs in a safe family-style environment that empowers our youth through creative expression.

As a company, we are most proud when our “investments” our children return to visit after they have “aged-out” of our program. They demonstrate our contributions to their development is paying-off.

What sets Club Xhell apart from the competition is our ability to serve the “whole child.” By focusing on character development, we doing more than custodial part-time/after school care, with character development you must have the concept of providing a holistic program. In this way, our outcomes take more time to mature. Our trajectory is over a “period of time” not a “point in time.”

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, seeing my staff mature and expand their skill sets, my parents (children’s parents) develop strong parenting skills, and finally, my adolescents making decisions even mistakes that they can address using our character development model is what success looks like for me.

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