Children’s Hero: Youth leader on call at all hours

Myra Quilantan, youth development professional at the Wilson Unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlingen, has been in her current position for about 10 years. Courtesy photo

HARLINGEN — When things get tough, there’s always Myra.

The kids at the Wilson Unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlingen know that anytime they need to talk, they can call Myra Quilantan.

“It’s a crazy world and sometimes they just need somebody to vent to and talk to without judgment,” said Myra, youth development professional.

“It’s just great to know that they feel like they have somebody to talk to,” said Myra, 45. “They’ll talk to us and we can be there for them whenever they need it. Not just like set hours.”

Myra has been with Wilson in her current position for about 10 years, but she’s been with the Boys and Girls Clubs, what she calls the “Movement,” much longer.

“My daughter was a fifth grader when I started and she’s 23 right now,” said the married mother of a son and two daughters. “Even when I was in high school I was a cheerleader and I would come and do cheer camps for Gerald from my senior year on for at least four or five years,” said Myra, a 1993 graduate of Harlingen High School.

“Gerald” is Gerald Gathright, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlingen. “I enjoy working with kids,” Myra said. “They’re so curious and they’re so easy to teach, especially when they’re so interested in what you’re teaching them.”

Early on, Myra worked as a paraprofessional for the Harlingen school district, but she ultimately decided to teach at the “Movement.” She found at that time years ago the school district didn’t want its teachers and paraprofessionals to get too involved with students as far as attending games and other events. Not so at the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“We can be there for them, show them,” Myra said. “If they don’t have parents that support and they ask us to support we can show up. We can be there for them. Especially with these teenagers this world is so crazy and it’s just great to know that they feel like they have somebody to talk to and they’ll come and they’ll let us know.”

In the time of COVID-19 it’s especially hard, as were the consequences of Hurricane Hanna. She recalled a couple of kids whose parents contracted COVID-19 and then the hurricane hit.

“They were scared and they were able to reach out and talk to us and ask, ‘Can you send me an activity or something I can do to stay busy to keep my mind off this stuff?’” she recalled.

And her response? “In a heartbeat,” she said.

“That’s what we’re here for. That’s what our job is. We’ll send it to them, just something to ease their minds,” Myra said. “The pandemic is the biggest thing right now. I miss them so much, but we stay in contact. They do have our numbers, they can contact me.”