The 2023 Youth of the Year Luncheon will be
May 25, 2023 at 11:30 AM
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel
Each year, one exceptional Club member
is selected to be the Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth as well as a voice for all of our nation’s young people.
Over the year, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club mission and are proof to the impact Clubs make in transforming and saving kids’ lives.
The 2023 Honorees will be posted in February of 2023.
Brooklyn Rowell became a member of the Semmes Boys & Girls Club as a second-grader. Brooklyn credits her involvement in Club programs as having provided her with confidence, skills and knowledge, and cites the “No Limits Girls’ Aviation” program as having the greatest impact on her plans for an aviation career. Because of her involvement with “No Limits.” including serving as the program’s Teen Leader. Brooklyn received a scholarship to attend the summer program at the Naval Flight Academy.
At Mary Montgomery High School, she has a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the Honor Society and the volleyball team. Additionally, with the Mobile Storm volleyball team she is on the top team in her age group and was named Player of the Tournament for the “15 National” team. Upon graduation from high school in 2023, she intends to enter Auburn.
A love of serving others is shown by Brooklyn’s mentorship with the Kids’ Ministries at Dayspring Baptist Church, where she does media/ tech duties for the elementary department, assists in the preschool area, and sets up and cleans for Wednesday night services. Community service includes volunteering with food pantries, the Ronald McDonald House, and Cleaning the Gulf Coast.
Arkayla M. Chestang believes “a strong girl makes a powerful woman.” At age eight, her family moved to Mobile. Changes such as attending a new school, making new friends, and living in a new city brought fear and anxiety. However, her fears subsided when her mom enrolled her in the Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club. She affectionately describes the Club as her second home. “Because of my Club experience, I am no longer afraid of change, and I embrace it,”
Arkayla is a graduate of Accel Day and Evening Academy where she served as a school ambassador, and the future looks bright. Activities at the Club kept her busy, from mentoring to photography and developing a passion for the arts. She also participated in Torch Club, WeOwnFridays, and held membership in Keystone Club, where she served as President. Arkayla plans to major in graphic design in college.
“The Club has impacted my life so much, and I was the kid in the shadow while everyone else was a part of something bigger. Now, I am a leader, and I want to inspire other Club kids, as others have inspired me. I’m a brand-new person, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
“The Boys & Girls Club has made an enormous impact on my life, and it has molded me into a person that makes me proud,” states Kayleigh Morgan. Her experience prompts her to pay it forward by volunteering her time and talents to those who need it most.
Kayleigh volunteers at her church, school, and non-profits, including Ronald McDonald House and Senior Citizens Outreach, amongst other agencies. Her most recent project includes preparing personal care packages for McKemie Place, the only emergency shelter for unaccompanied women in Southwest Alabama.
Evidence of the Club’s impact and her growth as a leader is evident through her service as President of the National Society of Black Engineers Jr. (NSBE Jr.) Keystone Club, Gavel Club, “No Limits” Girls Aviation Club of South Alabama, Smart Girls, and captain of the Optimist Swim team, where she advanced to the Scuba Diving program. Kayleigh has also been recognized as Youth of the Month and participated as a volunteer cook in the American Cancer Society’s Chili Cook-off.
The future looks bright for this rising junior at Murphy High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). After graduating high school, she wants to further her studies at Southern University.
“I am living my journey, because of the strong and positive support system at my Club. The staff encouragement and love have made a difference in my life.”
Landyn Callender believes in the power of love, the ability to dream, and the power of one person making a difference. “You should love yourself, be yourself, treat yourself,” Landyn says.’
Twelve years ago, Landyn entered the doors of the Bernard Malkove Cody Rd Club, terrified of her fellow peers yet displaying a bubbly social butterfly persona. However, her social anxiety went away when she began participating in various programs and classes at the Club. Through art classes, she found her passion and unleashed her creative side.
Her confidence grew. She began to try new things and became open-minded toward others. Now she sees the world from a creative/ artistic perspective and draws upon her skills to problem solve and help others, whether creating a flyer to share information about upcoming events or encouraging others to participate in Club activities.
“I am incredibly thankful for attending the Boys & Girls Club for everything. I am thankful for the skills I have acquired to be an effective, creative, and passionate leader,” Landyn says.
She also uses her creativity to spread awareness about self-care. She’s concerned when choose a follow the leader stance and giving in to social media pressures versus charting their own path. “I want to lend others a hand and let them know that you are your own person and not a hashtag.”
Landyn one day hopes to create a facility or a place where people go to be with themselves for a day. Such as a futuristic amusement therapeutic park. Where it is both educational and fun for all ages.
“Love yourself, Be yourself, Treat yourself.”
Brandon Oates is a senior at Murphy High School and a Varsity Basketball team member. He describes himself as a laid-back kind of guy. Being a leader was never in his vocabulary, and he always thought of himself as one who blends in and “flies under the radar.”
However, blending in was not an option at the Club. “The Club staff helped me become a more open-minded person and gave me the support and confidence to reach my full potential and get out of my comfort zone,” Brandon says. He went from being a Club kid to being a mentor and role model during his ten years at the Club. Participation in programs such as Keystone allowed him to serve others through community service projects and volunteering.
He credits the Passport to Manhood and Gavel Club programs for developing strategies for making positive, values-based decisions, from academics and career choices to conflict resolution and personal responsibility.
As the years of being a Club kid draw near, he will always treasure the memories and lessons learned. He’s optimistic about the future.
“On May 7, 2013, I came to the club as a scared, shy seven-year-old, and through the years of patience, love, and support from the staff, I’ve been able to do whatever my heart desired from sports and academics to college and career planning,” says Brandon. He describes himself as more focused and on the straight and narrow. “They saw leadership qualities and something in me that I didn’t see,” Brandon says. It’s a place where I can keep it 100, and I’m never judged.” The soon-to-be Murphy High School graduate plans to attend the University of South Alabama and study to become a radiology technician. Go Jags!