Denzel Washington. Martin Sheen. Randy Acosta. What do these three men have in common? At some point, all of them were members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Acosta, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Harford County since 2009, is a self-proclaimed “club kid.” The son of a Korean mom and a Mexican dad, Acosta and his two brothers attended the Boys & Girls Club in St. Paul, Minnesota to learn English.
“My mom couldn’t teach us English, so we would go to the Boys & Girls Club in the afternoon for that social upbringing, and we would have dinner at home as a family,” Acosta says. “The club kept us off the streets and out of trouble.”
Today, Acosta, 32, lives in Abingdon with his wife, Liz, and their 2-year-old son, Jude. “The birth of my son has given me even more of an understanding of the work I do because I have my own child,” he says. “It reminds me how important the work is that we do. Mentoring is magic.”
As the executive director, Acosta oversees the club’s locations in Aberdeen, Bel Air, Edgewood and Havre de Grace, as well as two outreach sites at the public library in Aberdeen and the Aberdeen Family Swim Center and the Westminster branch in Carroll County. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County serve more than 4,500 kids between ages six and 18 every year. “When you love what you do,” Acosta says, “it’s not a job.”
Since Acosta took over the reins, the club has attracted celebrities and athletes such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher and club alumni such as NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, and “America’s Best Dance Crew” host Mario Lopez to special events and fundraisers.
“I think growing up in the club reminds me every day why we do what we do,” he says. “There is such a need for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Harford County. I’m vested. There’s a sense of urgency and it’s non-stop.”
When he’s not busy running the Boys & Girls Clubs, Acosta can be found volunteering at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa and the Rotary Club of Aberdeen, a non-profit organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service. “Giving back starts at an early age, and it never leaves you,” he says. “Everybody should contribute something. Everybody needs a hand.”
For the thousands of Boys & Girls Clubs members in Harford County aspiring to achieve their dreams, Acosta has a few words of wisdom: “If you want something, you have to go out and get it. Nothing is going to be given to you.”
What’s your favorite television show? SportsCenter
What’s your favorite food? Korean food
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be? Vince Lombardi
What do you do to relax or have fun? Hang out with my son and play pick-up basketball or softball.