Kristina Petkova knows she has an impact on everyone she meets. She’s this year’s representative at Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Goshen Clubhouse as Youth of the Year.
It’s the third time Petkova has competed for the honor, and she said she has learned new skills every year.
“I used those past experiences to learn from the people who won. Their stories impacted mine,” she said.
Petkova said she developed a strong relationship with the other Club members who competed and is grateful for the support they have shared.
“It was important. There is one winner at the end, but we want the best for each other, and we support each other,” she said. “We were not overly competitive. Nothing is going to change our relationship with each other.”
It’s that spirit that inspires Goshen Area Director Fidel Mireles to promote the competition each year.
“I love seeing them work together and engaging with each other as they go through the process,” he said. “This program tells the mission of Club through the members. It shares their stories and experiences here. We have this big body of members and programs, and it all comes to a head with this program.”
Youth Of The Year is the Boys & Girls Clubs’ signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders. It focuses on leadership skills such as communication, goal-setting and teamwork.
Candidates for the honor write several essays, participate in interviews with judges, prepare and deliver speeches, develop a resume of their activities and solicit letters of recommendation about their leadership and potential.
Petkova said she feels a sense of responsibility as a representative of Goshen Club and wants to make sure other members feel seen.
“I feel like now I have to voice their opinions, because I’ll be representing them. I hope I can vocalize what they’re feeling when it comes to things around Club,” she said.
She wants the community to know that Club feels like her second home and members have an impact on those around them.
“If you come here, you will leave an impact a fingerprint. You will always be impacted by everybody you come into contact with. It happens everywhere you go. I just happens that here, the impact is usually positive,” she said.
That’s what Mireles said guides the program.
“I think what we see here is the mission for what it really is – we really see a members’ full potential during this and the additional growth that is possible.”