Whitney was a middle-school student when her parents divorced. Her mom struggled to make ends meet. Classmates regularly bullied Whitney, mocking the poverty she lived in. That ongoing intimidation made her dread going to school. Somehow, in spite of her growing depression, Whitney continued to earn exceptional grades.
It wasn’t until her mother enrolled Whitney and her two brothers at the Gene Mathews Boys & Girls Club that she began to recognize her potential to be great.
Whitney wasn’t judged at the Club. She was accepted for who she was and encouraged to do her best. When staff suggested she get involved in various activities, she usually would. Eventually, she began to volunteer for those activities and organize them. As president of Keystone Club, the teen service and leadership group, she volunteered well over 1,000 hours to community service projects.
The Club was a healing place for Whitney. She wasn't bullied and felt valued, even loved. In Whitney's words, “Unexpectedly and without warning, I shifted out of my depression. The Boys & Girls Club, by being with me at the most vulnerable time of my life, saved me.”
As National Youth of the Year, Whitney will serve as BGCA’s official teen spokesperson for the next 12 months. The honor includes a trip to Disney World, a new Toyota and $140,000 in scholarships.Whitney just started her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania.
When Denzel Washington called her name from the dais Tuesday night, it marked a new leg in Whitney’s journey to a great future. Congratulations to Whitney and all of our Regional Youth of the Year winners!