Every year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland hosts its annual Youth of the Year Breakfast. At this event, volunteers, corporate partners, BGCC employees, and parents of BGCC are recognized for their efforts, dedication, devotion, and hard work. But, the most important of these awards are for the Youth of the Year. Cleveland Indians award college scholarships to three graduating high school seniors who have been members of the BGCC–$2,000, $3,000, and $5,000. The students’ application process and road to the Youth of the Year includes their scholastic accomplishments, written essays and speeches on what they want to be and why, and sharing their stories.
The stories always get me. The things these kids have seen, lived, experienced, and overcome in their short lives are nothing short of daunting, heartbreaking, and in some cases, tragic. It gives me chills as I sit here writing this. Immigration, learning English, living in temporary housing, moving often, being separated from parents, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, divorce, gang violence, gun violence, poverty–any one of these things would be enough for most people to throw in the towel and just give up. But these kids don’t. They strive and persevere and work hard and support each other and they come through it all with dreams, hopes, love, and smiles. It’s truly incredible and inspiring.
And the Boys and Girls Clubs–and the incredible staff–help get them through it all. With love, support, homework help, career counseling, warm meals, and just a safe, fun place for students to be with friends and people who care about them, in addition to field trips, arts and scholastic programming, career training, opportunities and scholarships.
If anything the Bridge Board has done over the past eight years has helped Zayllianny graduate and plan to go to college to study social work, Sam make the honor roll and varsity football team, Tamia achieve a 3.5 GPA and tutor younger Club members with homework, Aaron get accepted to Central State University where he plans to student mechanical engineering, Elijah pursue his dreams of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon, or Jasmine achieve her goal of obtaining a degree in early childhood education and opening her own daycare, then all of our efforts have been worth it, because these kids are amazing.
If you ever have an opportunity to attend this event, clear your calendar, make any arrangements you need to, and go hear these incredible young people speak.
2016 Youth of the Year Candidates:
2016 Youth of the Year winner: Zayllianny Mojica. She is a senior at Lincoln West High School and a member of our Lincoln West club. She is 17 years old and has been involved with the Club since the 7th grade (12 years old). Zayllianny is involved in the Capstone program, in which she reads to children and thereby helps them develop reading skills. She will be attending Cleveland State University in the fall and majoring in social work.
Other Youth of the Year Candidates:
Samuel McKnight, an honor roll student and varsity football player at Cleveland Heights High School. Samuel has also volunteered at a local nursing home and at the Cleveland Foodbank. He is an excellent role model for others. Samuel is currently working as a junior staff member at our Charles Dickens site.
Tamia Jones has been a member of Broadway Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland since 2011. She attends Cleveland School of the Arts. Tamia is works as junior staff member and is currently the vice president of the Keystone Club. Tamia is a high school senior and maintains a 3.5 GPA. Tamia enjoys spending time in the education library, where she engages younger club members through homework help, reading and dance. She is a highly intelligent, perceptive young woman.
Aaron Hemphill is a member of our Heights Youth Club and a senior at Cleveland Heights High School. He has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland since the age of 7. During those many years, Aaron has participated in Passport to Manhood, Torch Club, Diplomas 2 Degrees and, most recently, the Keystone Club. Aaron is serving as the 2016 Keystone Tigers Club President and will be attending the National Keystone Conference in Dallas, Texas. One of Aaron best memories of the Club was his television news interview at the age of 11. He enjoys math, playing basketball and food. Aaron’s plans include attending Central State University in the fall, where he will pursue a degree mechanical engineering.
Elijah Colvin attends The Cleveland School of Science And Medicine at the John Hay High School campus. He is a member of our King Kennedy Club. After high school, he plans to start college and pursue a career in medicine. His dream occupation is to be a cardiovascular surgeon. Growing up, he always considered himself to be nothing less than a leader. Elijah says he “loves to help people and strengthen their weaknesses to succeed in life.” Elijah’s role model is Dr. Ben Carson. Once Elijah receives his professional degree, he plans on being a big donor to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Jasmine Berry is a senior at Shaw High School and a member of our East Cleveland Club. She is an early childhood education major at Shaw and hopes to one day become a daycare owner. She will be graduating high school with her CDA license. Jasmine has been with the Club for two and a half years, starting at the Cleveland Heights location and later coming to the East Cleveland site once it opened. Jasmine is also very interested in becoming a beautician; she spends her free time brushing up on her beauty skills. Along with being a promising beautician, she is a talented musician and has played the saxophone since fourth grade.