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Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama name Youth of the Year

HUNTSVILLE — Out of four outstanding and inspiring teens, only one could be named the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama’s 2019 Youth of the Year.

After the teens each shared a short speech on why they deserved the honor, judges agreed to bestow the title upon Calvary Teen Center’s Chyna Ross, a student at New Century Technology High School in Huntsville. Ross will move on to the national competition to vie for the title of National Youth of the Year.

“I am honored to have this position, and I am proud of the other candidates,” Ross said. “… I hope to continue to see more kids come through this program.”

Other finalists this year included Tyler Cain, Athens Boys and Girls Club; JaMia Williams, James A. Lane Boys and Girls Club; Shecoria Akins, Williams Boys and Girls Club; and Courtney Bryant, St. Paul’s Boys and Girls Club. Bryant was not in attendance at the luncheon. In addition to giving a speech, candidates had to submit character letters, their transcript and letters about their community service and what their communities mean to them.

In her speech, Ross spoke of all the ways that the Boys and Girls Club has helped her grow into the person she is today—no longer shy and timid, but confident and powerful.

“The mission of Boys and Girls Club says ‘to inspire and enable all young people,’ and that is what they do for me,” she said. “They inspired me to be my authentic self and to reach my full potential. … Whenever I look back to the shy little girl I used to be, I am thankful for the Boys and Girls Club. They kindled that fire in me, enabling me to be who I am today.

“I am a leader. I am intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, hardworking. Most of all, I am powerful. I am confident that there will be no challenge put in front of me I cannot immediately surpass, and I thank my club for the investment that they have made in me.”

During her time in the club, Ross said she discovered she had artistic talents. She began participating in showcases, and though she was afraid her artwork would pale in comparison to the others’, she was encouraged to submit her best work and ended up winning first place at a showcase.

Through the lessons of one soccer coach and “father figure” with the club, Ross also learned the importance of communication. That coach, along with the rest of the Boys and Girls Club staff, continued to challenge Ross and help her reach her full potential. She is now an honors student in the engineering strand at New Century Technology High School and said she is “dedicated” to becoming a mechanical engineer.

“We do a lot of great things at Boys and Girls clubs,” said Patrick Wynn, president of Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama. “Today, this is by far the best thing we do. We get an opportunity to name a young person as our annual Youth of the Year for our organization.”

Wynn added that many Youth of the Year winners end up coming back and getting involved with Boys and Girls Clubs in other ways. In the past year, he said BGCNA hired three new club directors, all of which are former Youth of the Year winners. Ross also mentioned that she feels she can be a role model to other kids in her club now, thanks to the personal growth she has experienced as a member herself.

With support from the scholarship committee—the Stender Foundation, the Tacala Foundation, Jami and Mike Peyton and Bob and Julie Broadway—Ross will receive $5,000 for four years for a total scholarship worth $20,000. “That’s for the winner, and that’s wonderful, but all of these kids are winners,” said Beth Morring, director of resource development for BGCNA. “All of our kids are winners. … They are all of our kids. It’s our community, and these are our children.”

Morring noted that donations to the club and scholarship funds not only provide for the Youth of the Year scholarship, but they also help other kids in the club cover college tuition, books and other expenses as well. To donate, visit bgcnal.com/donate.

According to the BGCNA 2018 Impact Report, nearly 150,000 kids in Alabama leave school with nowhere to go. BGCNA, a subset of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, is a network of 12 club sites that provide a safe and positive environment for these kids to go, filling the gap between school and home.

BGCNA served 9,303 kids in 2018, and more than half of that number consists of non-registered members—youth served through community outreach. The clubs provide Academic Success programs, mentoring programs, career prep and workforce development, as well as opportunities to serve the community through Torch and Keystone clubs. To learn more about BGCNA and the services they provide, visit bgcnal.com.

For more information on the national Youth of the Year program, visit bgca.org/programs/youth-of-the-year/the-program.

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