Helping young people develop character and leadership skills is an important part of the experience at Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County.
Teens can work on those skills through a Youth Of The Year (YOY) program. Three teens from Elkhart County have been selected as YOY for their respective Clubs.
Andrew Deal from the Middlebury Club, Justice Thompson from the Elkhart Club and Kristina Petkova from the Goshen Club were chosen to represent their Clubs in recent weeks after completing a series of essays, presentations and speeches.
Thompson has now been selected to represent Elkhart County in the upcoming statewide competition.
“It’s kind of scary to be the face of something so big that can impact so many lives. There’s pressure to be great and do good,” she said. “The next step is a little scary, but I know there are people who are going to help me through it.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County President and CEO Tami Hicks praised all three Club winners for their hard work throughout the process and said they will represent their individual Clubs well.
“It’s very clear that all these teens were prepared and driven to do the best they can to represent our county,” Hicks said. “All of them want to be the Youth Of The Year to make the county a better place by being role models for other young people.”
Justice joins two other teens from Elkhart Club who will represent Elkhart County on a bigger stage. Earlier this year, Chyniah Woods and Marquavious Hill were representatives from just eight Clubs across the country selected to perform in front of a national audience at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national conference.
“The commitment and dedication demonstrated by the Elkhart Club shines bright in the accomplishments of our teens,” said Chief Operations Officer Launa Leftwich. “Kudos to Area Director Whitney Miller, Program Manager Kyla Kirkendoll and the rest of the team for tirelessly investing in the success of our young people.”
Since 1997, Elkhart County has had six people win YOY at the state level and move on to regional competition. YOY is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier leadership program, celebrating the achievements of Club members who embody the values of leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles.
Thousands of teens participate in local, state and regional events. Six advance to the national competition, where one becomes a national teen spokesperson, role model and advocate for the millions of young people served by Clubs each year.
“All of them want to be the Youth of the Year to make the county a better place by being role models for other young people. Even though they’re navigating teen life, they have a vision for their future. By being Youth Of The Year, they’re preparing for the things they’ll need to reach those goals,” Hicks said.
Thompson said while she’s looking forward to the next competition, it won’t change who she is.
“I’m going to keep doing me and be a good example. I want to be someone people can look up to,” she said.
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