I think a role model is a mentor – someone you see on a daily basis, and you learn from them.
– Denzel Washington Boys & Girls Club Alumnus

            Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County (BGCSLC) is in the mentoring business every day. On February 18, 2022, that mentoring will come to fruition at the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County Youth of the Year Celebration. Four chosen teens will take the stage to share their heart before a live audience of friends, family, and complete strangers.   In addition to scholarships provided by GL Homes to the candidates, one will be chosen as the St. Lucie County 2022 Youth of the Year and will go on to compete in the State, Regional and National Youth of the Year competitions.

In the fall of 2021, sixteen teens competed for the title of Youth of the Year in their respective Boys & Girls Clubhouses. The Club teens presented their stories, platforms, and aspirations they are passionate about to a group of community leaders serving as judges. The judges heard heartfelt stories of bullying, mental health awareness, loneliness, and how they overcame obstacles. They heard the positivity from Club teens plotting a course for careers in music, medicine, education, and more.  “Every teen was outstanding. They made it hard to choose just one from each Clubhouse,” said judge Linda Bartz, St. Lucie County Commissioner.

“The growth our teens go through between being chosen at the Club level through the County Celebration is remarkable. This year will be even more difficult for the judges to decide as all four candidates have been involved in the Youth of the Year program prior,” said Cynthia Sanchez, Director of Teen Initiatives.
Mia, a junior at Lincoln Park Academy and a 5-year Club member, was selected to represent Westside Club following her message of practicing self-love and overcoming mental health obstacles while preparing for a career in engineering.

Originally a Club member from the Bronx, Essence, also a student at Lincoln Park Academy and a Club member for 5 years, touched the judges with her presentation about mental health awareness, depression, and aspirations to teach music. Essence and her gift of playing six musical instruments represents the Percy Peek Teen Center.

Jayden, a sophomore at Centennial High School, is in his ninth year as a Club member and represents the Chuck Hill Club in Port St. Lucie. Also, a musically gifted Club member, Jayden has performed at many BGCSLC functions on keyboards and seeks to be a music major. Jayden was chosen after the judges heard his platform of getting kids off the streets with positive programs.

Elyse, a Centennial High School senior threw her hat back in the ring to represent the Ken Pruitt Club after being chosen as the county’s 2021 Youth of the Year. She also placed second in the 2021 Florida Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year competition. Elyse’s career dream is to be a public defense attorney. Through her tenure as the 2021 Youth of the Year, Elyse interned at the law firm of Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd as part of the Club’s “Into the Future” workforce readiness program.

“Listening to what is important to the teens in our Clubs is on us as mentors to our youth. If we are not providing the path to their passions, then we are negligent. Hearing what is important to them and then connecting them to those resources is a game-changer for them,” said Will Armstead, CEO of BGCSLC.

Judges for the event include Madhu Sasidhar, M.D., President of Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, Travis Leonard of A&G Concrete Pools, Kasey Blair of the St. Lucie Mets, Javier Cisneros, of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Dr. Nicholas Brown of Indian River State College, Angela Kacprowicz of Guaranteed Garage Repair, and Southern Eagle Distributing.

The 2022 Youth of the Year Celebration will take place Friday, February 18 at the Westside Church in Fort Pierce. Tickets can be purchased for $20 which helps fund the scholarship program. Donors and sponsors that wish to support the program are always encouraged. For additional information contact Michelle Oakley, Director of Events at [email protected].