Youth center director honored for commitment to helping students

Della Boushley says she has thousands of kids after 22 years at the center

BUSHNELL, Fla. – Della Boushley, executive director of the Sumter Youth Center, is this week's Getting Results Award winner.

Every school day, like clockwork, a steady stream of buses make their way through the parking lot of the Sumter Youth Center in Bushnell. They start rolling in just before 3 p.m. and continue for the next hour or so. 

Della Boushley, known affectionately as Miss Della, is there, waiting to welcome every one of the more than 200 children who will spend the afternoon in her care.

"Go do your homework," she said to nearly each one. "I'm like a broken record."

The center cares for kids age 5 and up. Most fall below the poverty level. 

"It's a place where working parents can afford to send their kids. That's where we come in," Boushley said. 

The after-school program offers more than just play time. Boushley is proud of the homework help the center provides. In fact, it's one of the biggest benefits to the children who attend the low-cost program.

"I couldn't do any of this without the staff that I have," she said. 

College students, many who attended the program themselves, are on hand as volunteers to help with any questions. 

Students like Savanna Hodges and Eli Hughes, who both attend Lake Sumter State College, move from student to student checking on their progress.

"I wanted to give back in some way because it helped me when I was younger,"  Hughes said. "It's my hope that these kids can benefit, too."

Hodges agreed.

"I think this place is special," she said.

Hodges added that Boushley puts schoolwork first, helping every kid who attends.

"She's just really involved. You can tell she's doing it because she loves it," Hodges said.

The center also helps high school students search and apply to appropriate colleges. The staff works to find scholarships as well. 

Boushley has been a part of the Sumter Youth Center for nearly 22 years. She started as a volunteer and says she instantly felt it was where she was supposed to be. 

"When I started here, it was like, this is what I was supposed to do," she said. "I just have a heart and a passion to make sure these kids have what they need and succeed in whatever they want to do."

Boushley said fundraising is her biggest challenge since 75 percent of the operating costs are paid by outside fundraising. 

"I have thousands of children, I do. Because once they come through the door, they're ours," Boushley said. "Whatever happens in their lives affects us to because they're ours. That's what happened; they just became my kids."

Boushley was nominated for the Getting Results Award by friend and fundraising partner, Jen Smith.

"Della takes a personal interest in each of these children," she said. "She, without a doubt, changes their future." 

"I get emotional," Boushley says. "I do, because I don't know how many thousands of kids have come through here through the years. You can't reach every one of them but we've reached a lot, I know that. I'm very proud of that." 

You can find more information on the center and its fundraising events on the Sumter Youth Center Facebook page

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