Talking about Boys & Girls Club kids is one of my favorite things. Recently, it’s been a real treat to attend the Regional Youth of the Year dinners. The stories these amazing teens shared were so special. They’re living proof of the depth of impact that Clubs make.
All told, I heard about 60 candidates speak at the five events. Their accounts of how their Club helped them overcome personal difficulties and lay the groundwork for great futures were inspiring and moving. Their stories demonstrated exactly why we do the vital work we do.
I didn’t envy the judges, who did a great job making tough decisions. Our five Regional Youth of the Year representatives couldn’t be better choices:
Top to bottom: Crystile Carter, Tyler Merriweather, Mai Tong Yang, Trei Dudley, and Denzell Perry.
- Crystile Carter, Northeast – Despite growing up in foster care, Crystile knew the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in New York always had her back. The high school grad plans to study criminal justice in college and to one day join the NYPD.
- Tyler Merriweather, Southeast – At the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Alabama, Tyler developed into a driven, compassionate young man. A committed caregiver to his ill sister, the high school honor student will enter the University of Alabama this fall.
- Mai Tong Yang, Midwest – After Mai and her family moved from Thailand, they settled in St. Paul, Minn. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, Mai received help with homework, as well as adapting to a new culture. Over the years, she’s mentored younger members, served as Keystone Club president and worked as a Junior Staff member. Mai plans to study international relations at the College of St. Benedict.
- Trei Dudley, Southwest – Hailing from Kansas and the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, this top student plans to attend the University of Arkansas. An active member of her community, Trei volunteers at a local soup kitchen and several other organizations.
- Denzell Perry, Pacific – The support of the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles enabled Denzell to overcome a speech impediment and the absence of a positive male role model at home. As a result, he graduated as president of his high school class and plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley.
The fab five will meet this September in Washington, D.C., where they’ll contend for the title of 2012-13 National Youth of the Year. I’ll be thrilled to be there – and even happier that I’m not a judge.