Youth of the Year Be Great Gala Honors the Best of Delaware Youth
A Glimpse Inside the Blue Doors of Opportunity that is Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware
On April 13th, 2017, more than 200 attendees gathered in the Queen Theater, home to the first Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington some 86 years ago, to honor the nine finalists and subsequent winners of the 2017 Youth of the Year. What transpired was a celebratory event for Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware to recognize their exceptional youth.
This year’s Youth of the Year Be Great Gala fêted award winning poetry, speeches from select finalists, and performances by Club members.
The Gala allowed attendees an intimate glimpse inside the blue doors of opportunity that is the
Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware.
The 2017 State Youth of the Year honor was presented to Nikai Morales. Selected among 30,000 youth served in Clubs across Delaware, Morales hails from the Clarence Fraim Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington. Nikai, a senior in high school, will attend the University of Delaware in the fall.
A Club member since 2004, Nikai has focused his passions on photography and art, as well as maintaining a balance between school work and his lifeguard job at the Club. During the Gala, Nikai shared with the attendees that the Club was “a safe space for him”, as he was never accustomed to stability in his home life. Nikai also had the distinction of presenting his speech at the event —a well-executed speech that conveyed his gratitude for his Club and was met with a standing ovation. Nikai attributes the Club as the place where he found himself, true friendships and stability. Nikai will go on to compete against other Youth of the Year winners from the Northeast region later this summer. If named a regional winner, he will move on to the national competition.
Also recognized at the Youth of the Year Be Great Gala was the 2017 Military Youth of the Year awarded to Mya Reid of the Dover Air Force Base Boys & Girls Club. This distinction is dutifully given to recognize the unique hardships that may come with belonging to a military family. Mya was chosen based on her exceptional character and accomplishments. A senior in high school, Mya will attend the University of Florida in the fall.
A member of her Club since 2012, Mya currently holds the position of Vice President of Air Force Teen Council as well as the Keystone Club—a teen group dedicated to leadership and community service. She is grateful for her time at the Club and makes note that it has helped her hone and develop lifelong skills including interpersonal communication as well as leadership.
Among the many attendees at this year’s event, which included Club families, donors, sponsors, volunteers and staff, also on hand to congratulate all the youth on their successes and to demonstrate their ongoing support for Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware was Governor John Carney and Senator Tom Carper. Governor Carney spoke from the podium, addressing the finalists, acknowledging them for the hard work and commitment to ensure their Great Futures.
Each April, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware holds this premier recognition event for talented and aspiring youth, to celebrate their extraordinary achievements. Youth of the Year highlights the best of who the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware is. Each of the finalists are recognized for their leadership, character and service, as well as their academic excellence, and commitment to healthy lifestyles. These criteria are some of the pillars the Boys & Girls Clubs stand on, and work to instill within youth across the state to ensure that every child possess the chance to maximize their own future. Many Youth of the Year finalists, past, present and future, will have gone through tragedies, hardships, and other obstacles before heading into the adult world which remains why the Boys & Girls Club strives to recognize youth for their perseverance and successes.
The Youth of the Year application process requires all candidates to write three essays on: their Club experience, their vision for America’s youth, as well as their personal brand as individuals and leaders. These three topics encompass the essence of the participants and who they aim to be in the future. In addition to the written essays, three written letters of recommendation are required on the criteria previously mentioned.
The State and Military Youth of the Year winners, receive a $5,000 scholarship from Boys & Girls Clubs of America as well as additional scholarship support from Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware and the Janosik Family Charitable Foundation.
Nikai and Mya will compete regionally in late summer for the chance to receive a $10,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to 4 years. Regional winners go on to compete nationally in D.C., where they meet with the President of the United States, and address Congress. The chosen candidate named National Youth of the Year receives an additional $25,000 in scholarships for higher education.
Throughout the process, Club mentors aid the finalists —acting as a source of constant encouragement and affirmation. As with all programs offered by Boys & Girls Clubs, the significance of the youth and positive adult role model relationships is a critical part of the Youth of the Year program. Efforts from the mentors, local Clubs, and the dedication of the youth all combine to position these youth to be outstanding role models in their home communities.
The challenging undertaking of choosing just one winner among the finalists belongs to the distinguished panel of judges that come from around the state. The 2017 judges panel included: Dr. Kiijuana L. Cann from Hearing Services of Delaware, Nicholas Christine from Microsoft, Todd F. Lawson, Sussex County Administrator, Kathy McGuiness, Rehoboth Beach City Commissioner, Rohan Mendoza from Amazon Fulfillment Center, K. Tyler O’Connell from Landis Rath & Cobb LLP, Donald B. Patton from Christina School District, and Linda Price from Fulton Bank in Georgetown.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware wishes to thank all judges, sponsors, donors, mentors, attendees, and youth participants for making the 2017 Youth of the Year Be Great Gala the best celebration of youth destined to be great yet! The Clubs are extremely proud of all finalists who exemplify what it means to be a leader, a role model, and triumphant, despite any, and all, odds. It remains the goal of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware to provide all young people with a place to express themselves, learn, find friendships, and become productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
To learn more about Youth of the Year please contact Cheryl Rice, 302-658-1870