Youth of the Year candidates across BGCGW are gearing up for the awards ceremony on February 22. We had an opportunity to sit down and speak with Theressa Green, Director of Character, Leadership Development & Teen Services.
BGCGW: Why is the Youth of the Year or YOY so important to BGCGW?
Theresa Green: It is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premiere leadership program for youth 14-18. It not only addresses youth leadership style and skills – it also provides an opportunity to showcase their leadership, service to their Club and community. The application is akin to a college application. Youth have to show they have been a true leader in BGCGW. It’s quite an honor to be selected as your Club’s YOY. There is also scholarship money available as candidates progress from Club level to regional, to the recognition involved in representing BGCGW at BGCA’s South East regional competitions.
BGCGW: What is the application process for the BGCGW YOY?
TG: YOY is open to every young person we serve who has been a Club member for 2 years and has demonstrated leadership and community service skills. Once selected at the Club level, there is a staff person assigned to work with the youth on their letters of recommendation. The staff person sits down to help develop all six categories on the member’s application. This young person has to show leadership in each area in order to be selected. The areas are Community Service, Club Service, Home and Family, School, Life Goals, Moral Character. There are also two essays the applicant must write: “What the Club means to me” and “Why post-secondary education is important”.
The draft round is reviewed by an HQ representative who helps to proof the package as well.
We also hold a mandatory YOY workshop. The workshop includes interview technique, speech writing, proper attire, becoming comfortable with an audience, and answering any questions a judge may have about the process.
Following the workshop, for the next 2 weeks, the staff member works with the candidate on their interview skills and the speech they will deliver. Many of the prospects are members of their Club’s Keystone Club (BGCA’s “platinum” teen leadership program) and they often refer to the group’s national platform. Finally, there is an interview with a panel of 3-4 judges where candidates are asked a number of questions pertaining to any of the six application areas as well as current local or global events.
BGCGW: Whew! This is an intense process. What are the benefits to young people going through this?
TG: First and foremost, it helps the youth learn to adhere to deadlines and it’s great for college prep!
Then throughout the process, there are benefits that impact everyone in the organization. During the review process, it’s a great way to connect HQ staff and external volunteers with the Club kids. At the Club level, the relationship the YOY prospect has with the staff person is critical and long-lasting.
And at the awards ceremony, it brings all of the candidates together in a comfortable environment we strive to create outside of their Club where they get to tell their stories and make new friends.
BGCGW: So what happens on February 22?
TG: That’s the BGCGW YOY Luncheon (the awards ceremony mentioned above)! The Luncheon is open to family, volunteers and BGCGW Staff. It is an opportunity for candidates to present their speeches and showcase all of their hard work until that point. It is modeled after BGCA’s Regional events. And of course, at the luncheon, our BGCGW winner will be announced. The recipient receives $1,500.00 in scholarship monies.
BGCGW: What happens after Feb. 22?
TG: The next step is the State Competition. There is an intense process to ensure our candidate’s application is strong- from the letters and essays to the verification of community service hours.
The process goes back into the hands of Club staff to cultivate and develop the BGCGW YOY into the best candidate they can be. S/he gets all the practice they can by speaking at the BGCGW Russert Congressional Dinner and other local or Metro Board events/meetings, etc.
Former BGCGW YOY winners, Ryan Washington and Henry Lopez, have both gone on to compete at the Southeast Regional Level!
The National Youth of the Year is installed by the President of the United States and can win up to 50,000 dollars in scholarships. This year’s YOY, Kiana Knolland, hails from Kansas but is a freshman at Howard University. We are proud to have her here as a role model for our members.
We serve kids and teens through an adopted strategy created by our National Headquarters to ensure Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.
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