Ellena Little: Club Esteem
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Ellena Little: Club Esteem

Ellena Little:

NAME: Ellena Little

ORGANIZATION: Club Esteem

POSITION: Executive Director

ABOUT CLUB ESTEEM:

In operation for over 30 years, Club Esteem (CE) is a nonprofit organization offering after-school and summer programming to 1st- through 12th-grade boys and girls from under-resourced communities. Through a combination of individualized tutoring, mentoring, and enrichment programs, CE students grow into determined, compassionate, workforce-ready, and college-bound young people destined for success.  

CE was founded in 1991 by Gladys Williams, approximately 50 children met once per week at Brother's Park (currently The Delta House) in Melbourne.

Today, CE inspires 150+ youth to embrace academic and personal excellence, empowering them to enter each school year confident and feeling supported and equipped to succeed. CE provides resources, support and the tools needed to help children break the cycle of poverty and change the trajectory of their lives.

Taking a holistic approach by providing for students’ physical, psychological, and mental health needs, CE has more than 40 community partnerships, including with United Way, Community Foundation for Brevard, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Eckerd Connects. CE provides food for those who are hungry, physical exercise and health education, and mental health support and coping mechanisms.  

EXPERIENCE: 

Ellena has served as CE’s executive director for the last 14 years, but started as a volunteer there 26 years ago. She combines her experience with curriculum development, having taught at early learning centers and having homeschooled her own children with her passion to help youth accomplish their dreams.

As executive director, Ellena oversees the day-to-day operations of CE and continues to expand its services and build partnerships within the community. She also continues to mentor and teach students at CE.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT 

Ellena is an ordained youth minister and serves as a motivational speaker at churches and civic groups. She also teaches fine art, drama and dance to youth in her spare time. Ellena and her husband have also provided food at numerous community events through their catering service, Little’s Bad 2 the Bone BBQ & More.

Additionally:

  • Founding member of the National Negro Council for Women of Brevard
  • Chair of the Brevard County Red Ribbon Campaign Committee
  • Parent Advisory Liaison Committee with Brevard Schools and NAACP
  • Contributing writer for Ebony News Today

INSPIRATION: 

“I felt a calling to help. I immediately wanted to be involved in CE,” Ellena said. “I love working with the youth. I grew up in the church, learning the importance of servanthood and the value from Matthew 7:12 ‘do unto others as you will have them do unto you.’”

“In my opinion, children are one of our most valuable treasures and I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to share all that I am and everything that I have been given to help them succeed,” she said. “An investment in a child TODAY helps create a brighter tomorrow.”

“I have a picture that hangs in my office that says ‘One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.’ CE has had over 115 high school graduates with over 90% matriculating to college. I’m thankful I shared in their successes.”  

FUTURE

CE provides a loving and fun learning environment, educational opportunities and resources to equip youth for the real world, meeting each student exactly where they are. Having started in 1st grade, by the time they get to 12th grade, they have created a lifestyle of making healthy choices, establishing good work ethics, problem solving, conflict resolution, budgeting, and saving money, citizenship, setting goals and action steps, community service and good study skills.  

The organization is focused on offering a mental health and wellness program for students and their parents. Many students are dealing with childhood trauma, low self-esteem, anger, anxiety, and various disorders that affect their ability to learn and to be the best version of themselves. 

“We are not only concerned about helping the child get to a better place, but our services would include family counseling and training for parents, as well,” Ellena said. 

Currently 25 children participate in coding, computer programming, and marine biology through partnerships with Codecraft Works, Sea Turtle Conservancy, United Way, L3 Harris, Northrop Grumman and others. CE wants to expand partnerships with other nonprofits and businesses to provide additional STEM activities.

CE also plans to continue expanding programs to satellite locations in Palm Bay and Melbourne to serve more students from its waiting list.

ADVICE

Ellena believes that each of us can help make the world a better place. 

“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.’ I want to leave a footprint in the world and to know that I made a difference in the lives of others. To know that people are, my community is, and the world is a better place because I gave of myself. I would challenge others with this: TODAY is YOUR opportunity to build the TOMORROW you want. Seize the moment!”   

CE background info:

1991: Founded by Gladys Williams, about 50 children met once per week at Brother's Park (currently The Delta House) in Melbourne.

1994 Club Esteem Youth and Family Center was incorporated.

1995: Club Esteem moved its weekly meetings to Lipscomb Community Center in Melbourne.

1997: Ellena joined Club Esteem as a volunteer (in charge of performing arts and served as youth mentor and tutor).

2003: Junior League of South Brevard Inc., the City of Melbourne and general contractor M.H. Williams Construction joined together to build Club Esteem a new facility, adjoined to  Lipscomb Park Community Center at 3316 Monroe St., Melbourne.

2004: The Club Esteem Youth and Family Center opened, offering expanded programs and services five days per week during the school year to about 60 youth per day. 

2005-2008: Ellena works as program director and assistant director.

2009: As executive director, Ellena expanded programs to include: Financial Literacy, Math Counts, Reading Blast Off, Kids In Motion, Making of a Fine Young Lady, Just for Gents and Making Aerospace Real for Students, and Science Wonders.

Since 2009, Club Esteem’s Teen Tutors program has grown from about 75 students to 155 students annually and achieved the following outcomes each year:

  • Over 80% of our students are on or about grade level in reading and 85% or more are on or above grade level in math.
  • Over 90% of our high school students have a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • Over 80% of our total students are on honor roll
  • Club Esteem has had 100 graduating seniors, 91% matriculated into college, 9% have chosen employment, vocational training or are serving in the military.
  • 100% high school graduation rate
  • 100% of our students who enroll in college are graduating within 4-6 years (compared to the national average college graduation rate of 11% for low income and minority students.
  • 2 graduates received their PHd in 2022, 4 received their masters

CONNECT

Club Esteem

3316 Monroe St.,

Melbourne, FL 32901

321-409-8942

info@clubesteem.org 

Facebook: /clubesteeminc

Instagram: @clubesteeminc

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