Justice Thompson shows a maturity beyond her years. That’s how the team at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Elkhart Teen Club describe the winner of this year’s Youth of the Year competition.
“Justice knows her goals. She is not your average teenager. She has goals she wants to achieve and has achieved,” said Elkhart Club Program Manager Kyla Kirkendoll.
This is the second time Thompson has competed for 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.
Thompson said she felt more comfortable in the process this time around.
“I figured out that the judges were not as scary as I imagined they would be. It was just like having a normal conversation with someone. If you acted like you weren’t being judged at all, it was easier to get through the conversation,” she said.
Kirkendoll said Thompson is a role model around Club and showed that during the competition process as well. Thompson said all the candidates worked together to help each other.
“There was one girl who tried this year, who hadn’t been a part of this before. So, I was sitting there and helping her write her essays and formulate the right ideas. That was fun,” she said.
“She literally follows all of our key elements — academic success, community service and things like that,” Kirkendoll said. “Her focus is ‘I want to be successful,’ and she has been that way since she was in 5th grade.”
Thompson said she’s proud to be the representative for Elkhart Club, but it doesn’t change the way she will act.
“I don’t typically act out in public. I usually have pretty serious and formal appearance anyway,” she said.
She’s looking at the honor as a way to be an ambassador for the program for future Club leaders.
“It’s a really great program and there are a lot of benefits with it. Helping kids get into programs like this can really help their future.”
Kirkendoll said it’s that attitude that will propel Thompson to reach her goals.
“She is happy and smiling whenever she talks to people. She is a model — not just a model Club member — she is a model teen.”
“The competition is really great. It’s not like you’re competing for a prize, you’re competing for something bigger than that,” Thompson said. “You’re competing for your future and for your Club so it’s just a great experience.”