Boys & Girls Club of Central New Mexico mentor Ramona “Raelynn” Stockton has done more in her 15 years than many people do in a lifetime.
Earlier this year, she, along with two other club members, went to South Africa after being picked as Youth of the Year, a nationwide honor bestowed by club members. Stockton, a six-year club member, also fronts its rock band, Painful Youth.
Yet behind this outgoing exterior, resides a calm, somewhat shy teen who has taken what she has been given and paid it forward.
“My mom was working two jobs, and my dad was working three, and they needed someone to watch me with their busy schedules,” Stockton said. “They found the Boys and Girls Club, dropped me off here and I kind of just stuck with it ever since.”
She said she could’ve stopped coming to the club at age 13 but continued because she enjoyed the friendships and sense of family it gave her.
“I don’t have any siblings, so this was a way of me building a family from the kids at the club,” she said.”It was hard to get involved at first, but since I didn’t have another sibling’s reputation placed on me, I got to choose what I wanted to do without expectations.”
The hardest part of being an only child, she said, is not having anyone to go to when you can’t talk to your parents about things.
“I found that here,” Stockton said, referring to the club. “I’d come here and there was a staff I could talk to about everything from what I wanted to be in life to where I wanted to go to school and family problems. It gave me a bigger family, one that wasn’t related by blood.”
Now, Stockton has reversed roles and is mentoring members with the same concerns she had six years ago when she first attended the club.
One of the most important connections Stockton has made since joining the club has been with music, she said.
“I started out in choir since sixth grade and musical theater … I have just always been centered around music,” she said. “When I first came here, no matter what room you were in, there was music playing, and same at my house.”
Stockton said she originally declined when asked by club members if she wanted to join Painful Youth.
“The original singer was leaving at that time, and after thinking about it, I felt like I just had to do it,” Stockton said. “Everyone in this band is good at something, and when we put that all together, we create something special.”
She said she is good with pitch, hence the lead singer spot, and Stockton plays guitar.
“I play acoustic,” she said. “I really enjoy the genre pop punk, so that is mainly what I listen to, play and sing, although there are some songs on our playlist that we do well together as a band that aren’t pop punk.”
Stockton said she’s learned some of her greatest life lessons from working with others, not just in the band or with kids at the club, but also seeing how other people live half-way around the world.
“When we landed in South Africa, I was in shock,” she said. “But soon I realized how different this area was in a positive way.”
Stockton said everyone greeted each other with hugs instead of handshakes, and the community in many ways felt safer than the United States.
“Everyone was so nice,” she said. “We had the chance to go into people’s homes and eat with them or do dine-ins.”
One home Stockton visited made her group a feast of South African food.
“We were just eating while they were teaching us how to say things in their language; it was amazing,” she said.
Stockton said she had a better understanding of the word “perspective” after experiencing a different culture so far away from home.
“I heard stories of people pushing for gentrification and the apartheid,” she said. “I’ve read about these things, but I couldn’t actually connect that it actually happened the way it did until I was there.”
Stockton, who has a GPA of 4.2, said she isn’t sure what she wants to do post-high school.
“Right now it’s architecture, but I also love engineering so I will probably stay in the math area,” she said.
As for her musical passion, Stockton said it is only a side project that she would love to continue as a way of expressing herself.
“I am not getting too serious about it, although I love to sing,” she said. “I see my future going in other places, but music will always be a part of me.”