CCHS student athlete named Boys and Girls Club youth of the year for Alabama
By Shaun Szkolnik, sports editor
CLAY — A student-athlete from Clay-Chalkville High School has been named The Boys and Girls Club youth of the year for the state of Alabama.
Aronde Khalil Bell won the honor after years of service to the organization. Although to anyone that knows Bell, it wasn’t a surprise. He brings attention, focus and devotion to everything he does. That includes with the Boys and Girls Club, in the classroom and on the baseball field where he plays second base for the Clay-Chalkville Cougars.
“Khalil is one of the hardest workers on our team,” said head baseball coach Chris Tinsley. “He is the true heartbeat of our team. He is a guy that gets to the field early to get extra swings in before practice, and a guy that stays after practice to get extra work in.”
Tinsley is impressed with more than just Bell’s commitment to the ball team.
“Khalil is an excellent student,” said Tinsley. “He is a member of the National Honor Society, an Ambassador for CCHS, he serves on the Heritage Panel, and is also a Senior Class officer.
“Khalil is a fantastic young man and great role model for young people to look up to. He is in church every Sunday with his family. He is the type of kid that will be successful in everything he does just by the way he carries himself and by the way he cares for and leads others.”
For Tinsley, it has been special to watch Bell develop from a middle school student into an impressive young man.
“It has been an honor to be able to coach him,” said Tinsley. “Watching him grow as a baseball player from his eighth-grade year to now has been incredible. He plays the game the right way with a lot of passion. I believe he truly loves playing the game of baseball because he is always talking during the course of the game and he always has that smile on his face that young kids have when they are playing.
Bell has been attending The Boys and Girls Club for eight years. He started out there as a kid and eventually became a counselor.
“When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp, and I didn’t like it too much,” said Bell. “And one of my friends, he moved to the Boys and Girls Club in Clay, Alabama, and I just decided that I wanted to make that step and I’ve just loved it ever since.”
Since then, Bell has been promoted to the position of a coordinator. A coordinator does everything that a counselor does, such as giving snacks, playing games with the kids and giving them a lesson in character development, but the coordinator has the added responsibility of organizing where the councilors go and what they do.
In addition to his love for serving and helping youth, Bell loves the sport of baseball and his team.
“I started playing when I was four years old,” said Bell. “I’ve been playing on summer league teams, little-league teams, all the way up until now. There were some hard times like in seventh grade. I was cut from the baseball tryouts, and I had to come back the next year and try to make it. That was a pretty rough road right there, but I’ve tried to stick to it and make sure I’m working on my craft, but at the same time make sure I’m working on my education and at Boys and Girls Club.
“I’m more of a hitter. Mainly because I play second base and not a lot of balls get hit there, but I’m ready for them when they get there. And with hitting, I always love just getting in the cage and working.”
As much as he loves the game, Bell was prepared to say goodbye to it at the end of his senior year. However, that is not to be the case.
“Going into this season, I really thought this was my last year,” Bell said. “I was just making sure I was on it because I didn’t want to leave anything on the table. And I went to the Samford Showcase, and the coach saw me there, and I’m just thankful for that day.
“I have a baseball scholarship to Bishop State Community College. I got that, and I’m trying to work it back so I can get back home to U.A.B. and finish my two years and go to med school there.”
Bell did not hesitate to share what he has learned.
“You got to have fun with it,” he said. “If you’re not having fun with the game, it’s going to be hard to stay. Once you find that joy and love for the game, then you’ll do anything for it and if you want to keep playing, you’ve got to be able to go that route.”
Bell was also quick to acknowledge and praise the support system that has helped him achieve so much in his young life.
“One thing I always like to think about whether I’m on the field or in the classroom is the people that support me every day,” said Bell. “Whether it be my girlfriend, my mom, my dad, my grandmother, my siblings, my coach, even all the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. They look up to me and support me and anything I do. I want to make sure I do it for them and God.”