Local teens to compete for Boys & Girls Clubs of America's National Youth of the Year award

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis is on the search for its best and brightest club member to represent the Mid-South at the National Youth of the Year competition.

A representative from each of the Memphis area's 10 clubs will present on February 5 at the University of Memphis. The winner will advance to the state competition for a chance to move on to the regional and national competitions. The annual search is hosted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

“You have to do speeches in front of judges. We have to write essays, a résumé, and a cover letter," said Ashley Alvarez, who will represent the Sycamore View Club located at 1910 Sycamore View Road.

"It's a big deal ... They get to meet the president and get a $25,000 scholarship and a lot more," said Keith Blanchard, CEO of the greater-Memphis clubs, of the national winner. 

The national winner will serve as a voice for club members and spokesperson for the organization. Winning youth have been featured on television, worked as ambassadors for other youth groups, and met U.S. presidents from Harry S. Truman to Donald Trump.

The competitors are judged on academic achievements, public speaking and interviewing skills, and record of service to the club.
Ashley Alvarez will represent the Sycamore View Club in the Boys & Girls Clubs' National Youth of the Year competition. She'll first have to make to past the local competition. (Paula Guyton)
The state contest will be held in Nashville and southeast regional competition in Atlanta, Georgia on June 9.

Five nationwide regional winners and one military youth winner will attend a gala & celebration dinner in Washington, D.C. on October 6 where one will be named the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2020-21 National Youth of the Year.

The contest has run for over 70 years ago and was founded by the Reader's Digest Foundation.

Alvarez is a 9th grader at White Station High. Her club's director, Paula Guyton, chose Alvarez for the competition based on her 4.2 GPA and commitment to her club. Alvarez has been a member since she was 5 years-old.

“It’s been amazing,” Alvarez said of the club. “It’s been like a second home to me.”

She loves talking with her friends, playing in the game room, arts and crafts, and the cooking program. After high school, she plans to go to medical school to become a gynecologist.
 


More Than A Gym 

Boys & Girls Clubs provide after-school education, entertainment, and athletics, as well as programs to prepare club members for successful futures. In Memphis, the popular Juice Plus+ Technical Training Center provides training and certifications in culinary arts, logistics, automotive repair, welding, and IT. 

“So many people think that all that we do is an after-school daycare center or drop-off program,” said Blanchard. “It’s much, much more than that.”

There are over 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs of America locations nationwide. The Mid-South clubs have 5,112 members and 150 full- and part-time employees.

The clubs and their programs are organized around four key areas: good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles, career success, and academic success.

“We really focus on making sure that all of our kids graduate on time while applying for their future. That’s the most important thing that we do,” said Blanchard.

Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)
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