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On Thursday, April 11, 2019 Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware held its annual Youth of the Year event at The Queen in Wilmington. To a packed house, nearly 300 friends of the Clubs filled the room to celebrate the occasion; the conclusion of the event brought with it the announcement of the 2019 Delaware Youth of the Year Ardavia Lee, of the Greater Newark Boys & Girls Club.

Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware’s signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world economy.

In the 21st-century world and workplace, leadership skills such as communication, goal setting and teamwork are essential for everyone – especially young people preparing to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. The Youth of the Year title is a prestigious honor bestowed upon an exemplary young person in recognition of leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to live a healthy lifestyle.

Ardavia’s story speaks to the power of the Club and the essential role Clubs play in walking beside members through unexpected life obstacles. In late 2016, Ardavia’s whole world came crashing in.

In her own words, Ardavia shares what the past 3 years have been like, and the treasured role her Boys & Girls Club has played in her healing.

“It all started September 24, 2016 when my sisters and I were home alone and we heard three knocks at our front door. When I opened it, red, white and blue immediately blinded me. In front of me stood my sisters’ godfather in his fire fighters uniform. There had been an incident and my Mom was badly injured. We raced to the hospital, but we had hope because the doctors said that my mother was conscious when she came in. However, that hope was not enough. On December 1, 2016, my mother Ardythe Hope – the first African-American female firefighter in Wilmington, Delaware – died due to her injuries on the job. It did not feel real. I could not talk about it or hear about it without immediately being brought to tears.

During this time, I found my life overwhelming and I did not know how to handle it. My participation in my basketball program at my Boys & Girls Club, as well as community service projects, helped keep me busy and keep my mind off things. One thing that remained clear was the constant support of the Club staff and my teammates. Today I am a person who is constantly smiling and encouraging of others – this characteristic grew when my Club coaches sent me to a basketball and leadership camp called STRIVE Sports Challenge.

It is because of my Club that opportunities like this were even available to me. I am so proud to be a small, intricate part of something so much bigger than I am. The Boys & Girls Club is not just a Club to me….it’s my home. In addition, the people there are my family, and I couldn’t ask for a better one. Every day I wake up with a positive attitude and a smile on my face, because I know there is no reward focusing on the negative. If you can be a shining light in one person’s life, you can change it – just as the Boys & Girls Club was that shining light in my life.”

Ardavia is much more than her circumstances. She is a thriving young woman, who conducts herself with grace and self-worth. She is a leader in her Club and community, and a role model for all young people. Ardavia is not a winner because of what happened to her. She is a winner, in spite of it. Ardavia didn’t have a choice in losing her mother on that fateful day, but she did have a choice in how she chose to move forward. She has worked hard to walk through her pain, and lean into her faith, family and community and live each day in the spirit of her mother.

Now in her senior year at St. Elizabeth’s in Wilmington, Ardavia is embarking on her great future. In February Ardavia was awarded a $25,000 Sallie Mae Bridging the Dream Scholarship for excelling both inside and outside the classroom. Like her fallen firefighter mother, Ardavia is committed to helping others. When she’s not busy maintaining her 3.94 GPA, playing basketball, volleyball or throwing for the track team, she is volunteering in her community and her Club. Ardavia is contemplating which college to attend in the fall, so far the front-runners are Delaware State University and the University of Delaware – two great choices! Ever looking forward, Ardavia plans on law school following undergrad.

As Delaware Youth of the Year, Ardavia will receive a $5,000 scholarship from Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Additionally, she will receive $3,500 in scholarships from Janosik Family Charitable Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware.

Joining Ardavia in the Youth of the Year Finalist pool, were five (5) other outstanding youth from across Delaware. Selected among thousands of Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware youth, Tyler C. of Seaford, Tiffany G. of Wilmington, Tair R. of Milford, Jai’mere S. of Laurel and Justin W. of Dover represented their local Boys & Girls Club. Becoming Delaware Youth of the Year is an exciting and inspirational journey. These young people serve as model ambassadors for other Boys & Girls Club youth and as a strong voice for all young people.

“As with every group of Youth of the Year Finalists, we are so proud of these young women and men who represent their Clubs and communities so honorably”, said John Wellons, President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware. “Having a dedicated program to celebrate teens whose Club experience has empowered them to find their voice and achieve success is what Youth of the Year is all about.”

Those fortunate enough to be inside The Queen on April 11th were privy to the very best of Delaware’s youth. Each of the finalists and the performers created a moving message of hope for their Great Futures. One that Ardavia carried with her following the big night. In true Ardavia fashion, Ardavia, her mentor, and her Club family took her Youth of the Year award to Station #5 of the Wilmington Fire Department. There with her mother’s memory all around her and those that love her most, she again celebrated her victory.

So what is next for Ardavia? Aside from graduating this spring and embarking on college in the fall, Ardavia will compete for the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year (June 2019) and an additional $10,000 college scholarship, (renewable up to 4 years). Should she win (and we have every reason to believe she will), the six teens, including five regional winners and the National Military Youth of the Year, advance to Washington, D.C., for the National Youth of the Year competition where one outstanding young person is selected Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national teen spokesperson. The National Youth of the Year is a role model, leader, and advocate for the nearly 4 million youth served by Boys & Girls Clubs each year, and all of America’s young people. The National Youth of the Year receives a $25,000 scholarship (renewable for up to 4 years) and induction by the President of the United States in the Oval Office.

For 72 years, the Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated America’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Ardavia’s story and the other Club stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year the premier leadership and recognition program for teens and Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware the leading Youth Development organization in the state. These amazing young people represent the voice and spirit of hope for Delaware. Inspiring all kids to lead. To succeed. To help those in need. To inspire. To become…

Through the Boys & Girls Clubs, our young people display their talents and achievements, share their hopes and dreams, and work towards a bright and positive future. Youth of the Year honorees at any level, local, state, regional and national – are shining examples and living proof that GREAT FUTURES START HERE.

For more information about the Youth of the Year program, contact Cheryl Rice,

Media Inquiries: Hilary LaMotte Burke 302-658-1870

Ardavie Lee's 2019 Youth of the Year Speech, April 11, 2019

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