Pictured from left to right: Denzel Washington, Ashanti, Mona Dixon, Roxanne Spillett, Dr. Robert Balfanz, Robbie Bach
From the beginning, I knew the Boys & Girls Club was the place for me. A stranger paid my $20 membership fee and little did I know, it would change the rest of my life forever! The Youth of the Year process was very long but it gave me a lot of long-lasting experiences and friendships.
I have met other fantastic teens from all over the United States and even from Japan. I have heard so many powerful stories that have truly opened my eyes to see that my life could have been worse. I learned that I am not in this world alone and that all over the world teens are striving to overcome their obstacles and make something of themselves to make this world a better place. I wish I could name all my friends but it would take up this whole message.
At the National level of the competition, I met four great teens. We got along together well and I will never forget them. In Washington, D.C. , we did a lot of sightseeing, participated in a scavenger hunt, learned a lot of history, received a lot of prizes and had some delicious food! I’m pretty sure everyone wants to know about us meeting some really big people. Yes! Well we all had the pleasure of chatting with Ashanti, hanging out with Denzel Washington and meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. I can not even explain how all of this felt! It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us. I even got to do three live interviews back-to-back with Denzel Washington, who insisted on having me join him.
As National Youth of the Year, I have had many interviews and I have inspired many different people. I will be an Honorary Grand Marshall in the Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade and I get to speak to a variety of audiences all over. I love it and I am honored to be able to share my story and impact so many people. I plan on doing whatever it takes to start changing as many lives as I can. I want to teach everyone that no one can put limits on anyone except themselves. It is never too late to work toward a dream to be GREAT!
I want to thank all my scholarship donors including the Victoria Lund Foundation, Darden, the SPARKLE Fund, Tupperware, Reader’s Digest, and the Rick and Susan Goings Foundation for helping me pursue my college education. By helping me, you are helping so many others in a big ripple effect. I hope you continue to do positive work. Most importantly, I want to thank all the Boys & Girls Club staff and kids all around the world because you all inspire all of us in one way or another!
2010-2011 National Youth of the Year