Seven years ago, my mother changed my life in a way she probably didn’t know was possible. When I was in the sixth grade, she registered me and my brothers as members of our local Boys & Girls Club in Sarasota, Florida. The Club was exactly what I needed to recognize that greatness is inside of everybody, and the adversity you face does not define you. At the Club, I met kids like me, who faced all kinds of adversity, and together, our Club dared us to be great. I vowed to lead by example and encouraged my brothers and fellow Club members to face their challenges and helped them grow into hardworking, courageous, strong and independent individuals.
I am still fulfilling this promise. Being named the National Youth of the Year has confirmed to me that I am on the right path in my service and leadership. I know I can and will encourage more young people to become leaders in their Clubs, families and communities. I challenge every Club member to be unafraid and to live a life of purpose. In spite of the emotional and economic obstacles they may face, every youth has greatness within them.
When I walked into the doors of my local Boys & Girls Club, I never could have imagined myself where I am today. I have been afforded the opportunity to speak on behalf of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s nearly 4 million youth, meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch and deliver the game ball at the World Series. I will soon get to meet President Obama, as well as members of Congress, and continue inspiring young people across the nation.
This year will undoubtedly be filled with countless, incredible opportunities that would not be possible without BGCA. I look forward to a future of serving and leading as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Clubs, and the legacy that is the Youth of the Year program.