Denzel Washington, 63, revealed how joining the Boys & Girls Club of America in Mount Vernon, New York, nearly 58 years ago impacted his career as an actor.
According to The Associated Press, the Oscar winner credited a counselor from the youth organization giving him advice that became the bedrock of his thoughts on success.
The advice was offered when the counselor noticed Washington was distracted after learning he wasn’t as fast as another child participating in a track meet.
“I remember him telling me that, ‘You know, yes, that other kid is fast, but he doesn’t know how to run. He doesn’t know how to run the turns or pass the baton.’ And he said: ‘Your natural ability will only take you so far.'”
Years later, the two-time Academy Award winner used that advice and decided to take up acting in graduate school after having had some success in the field as an undergraduate. Washington earned a B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977.
“I decided to continue my studies and go on to work on my master’s, and that was directly related to an experience I had as a child in the Boys & Girls Club,” Washington said.
He went to graduate school at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco before beginning his professional career in New York.
Although his four children were not active members of the club as he was, Washington said he instilled in them all the lessons he learned in his days hanging out at the Boys & Girls Club.
The veteran actor is now the national spokesman of the youth organization.