Four youth from the area have demonstrated what participating in the Boys and Girls Club has meant to them by competing in the annual Youth of the Year competition this year.
Ami Bhakta. Aileen Salome, and Rhiannon Amezquita, all of Ruidoso, and Autumn Harris of Roswell were nominated for the 2019 honors.
The culmination of their efforts occurred Saturday night at the Roswell Country Club when they gave speeches describing how their lives have been changed by joining the local club, part of a national organization formed in 1860 to promote academic achievement, character development and and healthy lifestyles.
“They exemplify our mission,” said Natasha Welt, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club of Sierra Blanca, which includes Roswell and Ruidoso locations. “They’re proof that the impact of our club actually transforms and saves kids’ lives.”
Bhakta, chosen the winner for the senior category, and Harris, the area’s Junior Youth of the Year, will participate in the state competition to be held in Santa Fe this spring, with winners receiving $5,000 in scholarships and a laptop. The state honorees in the senior category will progress to the regional competition. Regional winners can move on to the national competition in Washington, D.C.
The National Youth of the Year will serve as an ambassador for the organization and a voice for youth nationwide for a year. He or she also will receive $25,000 annual scholarships for up to four years and a car.
The youths are judged on portfolios that summarizes their achievements, essays discussing what club membership has meant to them and the speeches derived from the essay.
Junior Youth of the Year nominees are 10 to 13 and must be a club member for at least a year. Senior Youth of the Year contenders are 13 and up, with required club membership of at least two years.
“The opportunities that these kids can come out of this program with are just phenomenal,” Welt said.
The Boys and Girls Club of Sierra Blanca has about 174 members. Nationwide the organization has about 4 million members on an annual basis.