2024 Youth of the Year Luncheon
May 23, 2024 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.
Contact Brenda Carlisle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-432-1235 for information on reserving a table for the 2024 Luncheon.
Ryan M. joined the Bernard Malkove Branch in the summer of 2017. “I sat off to the side, silently, as the other kids laughed and played, too nervous to even speak to anyone,” Ryan remembers. Within weeks, he began to make friends and transformed from timid to outgoing and charismatic. His confidence grew, and the Club became his home away from home for the next two summers. After a brief absence, Ryan returned to the Club in 2020 for the year-round program and wasted no time getting involved in various community service projects, from Breast Cancer Walks to voting drives to volunteering at the Ronald MacDonald House and other organizations within and outside of the Club. Furthermore, Ryan participates in UPS Road Code, We Own Friday, Keystone Club, and Torch Club and is an inaugural member of the President’s Club.
Ryan’s confidence from his Club experience favorably impacts his high school experience earning A Honor Roll and serving on the advisor’s Council at Baker High School. He also serves as an officer with the Mobile Kappa League. As secretary he takes the minutes, creates agenda for upcoming meetings, and tracks attendance at meetings and events. Ryan will graduate in 2024 and plans to attend Jackson State University.
He credits Pamela Thompson, Bernard Malkove’s teen coordinator, for her guidance and listening ear and Jermaine West, director of teen services, for being a role model and making him a better young man. “I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am to have these two people in my life,” Ryan says. “They introduced me to many opportunities and continue contributing to my educational growth daily. All in all, the Boys and Girls Club has been a haven for me, promoting creativity and blossoming me into who I am today.
Jayden J. describes himself as compassionate and funny. He was that kid that was too shy to speak and questioned his value. He let anxiety, fear of judgment, and rejection stifle his efforts to be authentic.
Knowing the struggle, Jayden gives and inspires others at the Club, his school, or his part-time job. “I am passionate about others, and It brings so much pride to make a difference, says Jayden. He writes those words but demonstrates those words through his actions, advocacy, and volunteerism.
The Foley High School junior serves as a youth volunteer at the Club, assisting Club kids with homework and completing school assignments, group activities, and games at the Club. He also gives positive reinforcements while members work on projects.
“He thoroughly impressed me with a strong sense of character and integrity, opting to spend quality time with our youth providing homework assistance and structured supervision in our game room, says Maurice Horsey, Foley Branch director.
Jayden also volunteers with Baldwin County Beach Clean Up and Baldwin County American Heart Association (Heart Walk) and works part-time at Winn Dixie, where Club kids and their families shop. He’s received compliments on his kindness and helpfulness in the community. “Given his resolve and ambition, I am confident that he will be successful in any endeavor he pursues,’ Horsey comments.
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” can be misleading when referring to Rashaad J., who’s graced the halls of Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs for seven years. He’s a ray of sunshine and describes himself as optimistic, hardworking, outspoken, and creative.
However, his behavior starkly contrasts the optimism he projects today.
“I was a very childish and irresponsible young man,” he says. His antics got him in trouble, and his mother enrolled him in the Club and shared her concerns with Cory Penn.
Kiwanis Club branch director.
Penn shares the quote,” The greatest leaders were the greatest followers. To become a great leader, you have to follow the right people,” Rashaad had never heard of the quote but realized he was following the wrong people, which led to his troubles. Once he aligned himself with role models in the Club, his behavior improved.
He immersed himself in the Club Programs and began making a difference. “I have seen him grow into an astounding smart male who excels both in and out of the club,” states Zach Todd, Training Specialist. He serves as keystone club president, Boys & Girls Clubs of America Presidents Circle, job-ready Program, and completed a paid summer internship as the Club photographer and social media director.
His involvement and advocacy don’t stop with the Club. The rising senior at Davidson High School is a photographer for the yearbook staff. “Rashaad advocates for himself and others, take the initiative, incorporates vision and creativity, and steps up to every challenge thrown his way, says Valerie Guy, Davidson High School yearbook advisor describing Rashaad’s approach when asking to join the yearbook staff and his contributions as staffer “His drive and passion for capturing the memories of Davidson students is beautiful. He brings excitement, color, and sincerity to each project and our classroom and school.”
After graduation in 2024, Rashaad plans to pursue a professional photography career. He hopes to travel the world taking photos. He knows there will be challenges. However, he will draw on his past experiences of pressing forward amid his mom and stepfather’s divorce, living in a shelter, and the uncertainty of not knowing where his family will live. “One of the things I learned on this journey is that if you cannot change the situation, change your mindset, Rashaad explains.
A lot can happen in ten years that can alter the trajectory of one’s life. Kayleigh knows what changes can occur as a Club kid in ten years. She went from being scared and nervous to having fun when describing her introduction to the Optimist Club. “Initially, the club was a place to run around, play, have fun, and hang out,” Kayleigh remembers. Her outlook changed when she took an interest in Club programs and services -participating in Smart Girls, Gavel Club, Torch Club, Ignite Program, swim and dance team and cooking classes, and more.
Kayleigh knows Club activity is more than time-fillers. It’s an opportunity for growth and development. “I would question why I had to participate,” she says. “Now, I understand these programs are steering me in the right direction.” She serves as Keystone Club president, a teen mentor, tutors, and is a member of the Job-Ready staff. She is learning the skills to become equipped for the workforce and learning spending and budgeting through financial literacy classes.
Her experience prompts her to pay it forward by volunteering her time and talents to those who most need it. Kayleigh volunteers at her church, school, and non-profits, including Ronald McDonald House American Cancer Society’s Chili Cook-off and Senior Citizens Outreach, amongst other agencies.
The future looks bright for this rising senior at Murphy High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Ambassador, and other organizations. After graduating high school, she wants to further her studies at Southern University. She credits the Club with her growth and development and the enormous impact on her life. “I am living my journey because of the strong and positive support system at my Club. The staff’s encouragement and love have made a difference in my life,” Kayleigh proudly states.
Brooklyn describes herself as determined, ambitious, and enthusiastic. She excels in the classroom as an honor student, in sports as a volleyball player, and in her community. Her numerous awards include Outstanding Student Citizen by Semmes Chamber of Commerce, Mobile County – City Youth Council recognitions for community service and civic roles, and her invaluable contributions as a Club kid at the Semmes Boys & Girls Club.
Since 2013, Brooklyn’s walked the halls of Semmes Boys & Girls Club, where she feels safe and sheltered from whatever was happening in the “real world.” “Every day that I walked in those doors, it’s as if somebody lifted a weight off my shoulders, and I felt like I could be a kid again,” Brooklyn says.
Instead of struggling alone, she discovered her passions, built her confidence, and became part of a family. She credits programs such as Smart Girls, Torch Club, Keystone Club, and No Limits Aviation Club for educating her on the blessings of womanhood, healthy relationships, leadership skills, serving others, being a good role model, and exemplifying integrity. She’s most proud of being named BGCSA 2022 Youth of the Year (YOY). Through the YOY program, she used her platform to publicly tell her story of being impacted by the realities of drug abuse and domestic violence. She plans to continue to tell her story. “I want to continue to show them that they can not only survive their circumstances but overcome them,” Brooklyn explains.
Semmes Branch director Inger Anderson is thankful that Brooklyn set gals and did not let her situations, “naysayers,” or setbacks get in her way. “It has been a great pleasure to be involved with and witness Brooklyn’s growth from a shy nine-year-old, hesitant to participate, into a leader who is extremely active in the Club, community, and school,” Anderson comments.
“We are quite proud of the young lady she has become and look forward to seeing where her goals will take her.” Brooklyn graduates in May 2023 and will further her education by attending the Univ of Mobile.
Ashleigh R. describes herself as observant and empathic. Others see her as an outstanding leader, enthusiastic, a dedicated member of Keystone Club, hard-working, an honor student, a motivator, and an avid interest in helping others. “Not only does she excel academically,” says teacher Meredith Rogers, M.Ed. “She’s always present, works hard, and encourages others to do well.”
The accolades from her peers and teachers contrast with the “introvert and antisocial” label she used to define herself before her enrollment at the Sonny Callahan Branch. “My parents described me as a turtle hiding in my shell,” Ashleigh says. Attending the Club and being exposed to different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures ignited a passion, empathy, and the need to help others and speak out against disparities- gender, ethnicity. “I want to inform others about the “Golden Rule”, she says. “Everyone deserves respect. We may not have the same characteristics but were human.” Ashleigh believes she found her voice. She opens up and expresses herself. “I have watched her flourish into an outstanding leader,” Lauren Pritchett, Sonny Callahan Branch Teen Coordinator, proudly shares.
Ashleigh is a student at Theodore High School where she’s on the honor roll with a 4.0 GPA and a perfect attendance record since 2010. She’s also a member of the robotics team. At the Club she serves as Keystone Club secretary, mentors the younger kids, and has worked on several community service and fundraising projects. She’s also participated in Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s Walks. “The Club is where I can relax and not stress as if l were in a school setting. I’m surrounded by kind and supportive staff and peers. I absolutely love coming to the Club,” Ashleigh explains.