The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana hosted its annual Youth of the Year event Thursday evening at Allure on the Lake in Chesterton. Attendees gathered to celebrate the nine nominees who were all chosen to represent their respective clubs.
Nominees included Karina Martinez (Duneland), Kale Nelson (South Haven), Bryanna Bass (Portage), Will Frost (Valparaiso), Phoebe Ruiz (Cedar Lake), Samaria Adams (Hammond), Marcus Steele (Gary), Lily Thole (Lake Station), and Azariah Avery (Merrilville).
Ryan Smiley, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana President, emphasized the importance of honoring these nominees. Smiley stated, “These members in particular are the model for the rest of our members for everything they go through, for the leadership they provide, and their academic success, which really showcases the impact that the club has on their lives.”
Two groups in particular have gone above and beyond to prepare the candidates for the Youth of the Year competition. The organization's young profiessional group, Professionals Advancing Local Succes (PALS) were a huge help, as were the Toastmasters, who mentored and worked with candidates on their speaking and presentation skills.
This year was unique in that it was the last year that two nominees were to be chosen as Youth of the Year as the Lake and Porter County clubs merged into one last year. Finalists gave speeches on how much the club impacted their lives, as well as the opportunities granted to them from their time there.
Those increased opportunities were why Jim Pratt, member of the Hammond club advisory board, attended the night's event. Pratt stated, “It gives young people a chance to strive for something better in life and develop their abilities. Even if they don’t win, they’re going to learn something important from this experience.”
At the end of the night, the nominees were gathered on stage to learn who would be moving on to the state competition. From Porter County, it was Karina Martinez, and from Lake County, it was Azariah Avery. Winners received a $2,500 scholarship and runners up received a $1,000 scholarship.
The reception was made possible by the Premier Sponsor, American Licorice Company. Other sponsors included Computer Services, Inc., Ace USA Limousines, Harley & Jan Snyder, All Around Limousine Service, Second Nature Limousine, MacLennan & Bain Insurance, and We Create Media.
The Boys and Girls Clubs around Northwest Indiana work hard to educate their members and provide opportunities to further themselves, and in turn, the community. To learn more about the BG Club of NWI, visit https://www.bgcgreaternwi.org/.