Youth of the Year is one of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s signature efforts to foster a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world economy.
In the 21st-century world and workplace, leadership skills such as communication, goal-setting and teamwork are essential for everyone – especially young people preparing to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. With a grassroots beginning in 1947, Youth of the Year has evolved into a comprehensive leadership development program.
Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be the National Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth as well as a voice for all of our nation’s young people. Over the decades, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club mission and are proof to the impact Clubs make in transforming and saving kids’ lives. National Youth of the Year winners have achieved success in a variety of industries, including entertainment, politics, business and sports.
Becoming National Youth of the Year is an exciting and inspiring journey. Each year, thousands of Club teens participate in local, state and regional Youth of the Year events. Six teens, including five regional winners and a national military youth winner, advance to Washington, D.C., for the National Youth of the Year Gala & Celebration Dinner, where one outstanding young person is named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national teen spokesperson. The National Youth of the Year is a role model, leader and advocate for the nearly 4 million youth served by Boys & Girls Clubs each year, and all of America’s young people.*
Sarah Heinz House has a rich history with this powerful leadership development program. Our program starts internally in the Fall with around 20 of our members. Congratulations to all of our members who were selected throughout the year who worked extensively to prepare and present their written packets and speeches. Throughout the whole process, it is incredible to see how supportive and encouraging the members are to each other.
Meet the exceptional 2018 Finalists:
“I take 2 buses, but the pain of riding the PAT buses, waiting downtown in rain, snow and hail are well worth it because the Club is my “get away life.” I don’t have to stress about anything outside of the Club when I walk through those doors. Everyone can be themselves, showing their flaws and past struggles that have made us who we are today.”
“Heinz House has enabled me to not be defined solely by my sexual orientation, rather, I am defined by my accomplishments as a leader…I know that I will take the lessons I learned at SHH and continue to develop as a strong, confident young man.”
“No matter who you are, you will always find somewhere to fit in at SHH. Most importantly, you will find that it is okay to ask for help and that your struggles make you stronger.”
“Heinz is where I finally felt understood and somewhere that I know I will always have support…I know that no matter how bad things might get at home or school that I can come here and everything will be okay.”
“I feel appreciated at this place and that’s not something you get to feel everywhere. SHH has brought unimaginable joy to my life.”
“SHH has taught me that I don’t have to hide parts of my personality because of stereotypes or labels…I’ve been given the opportunity and thrived. I proved to myself that I could do it. This was because SHH believed in me.”
“I have always struggled with my weight and finding confidence within myself. 5 years ago, I went to SHH camp where I was pushed to my limits physically. I never knew how good it felt to be up an active all day, every day, until I went to camp.”
“The Club changed my whole attitude about everything. I have learned that everyone is important in this world, whether you’re black, white, tall, short, loud or quiet, you have a voice and it deserves to be heard. I have never looked like the “popular” or “cute” girl, but through the Club and throughout camp, I’ve learned to love myself and what I look like.”
“Having a job here has taught me a lot about responsibility and how to work out different conflicts I may face…You learn about respect and connect with people while growing a close bond…You learn how to solve problems in a reasonable way.”
“I learned about who I can really turn out to be if I dedicate myself to it.”
These 5 finalists had the task of providing a timed speech and be interviewed by a panel of 8 judges.
Laniya W. was selected to move forward and represent Sarah Heinz House at the state competition of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She will begin this next step of the journey in April, travelling to Harrisburg. Congratulations and Good Luck!
A special thank you to our panel of judges: Kenya Boswell, Beth Crow, Cindy Gerber, Sasha Heinz, Chris Heinz, Susan Lammie, Scott Lammie and Andrea Clark Smith.
*Introduction of article from Boys & Girls Clubs of America website. Click Here to read more about BGCA’s Youth of the Year Program