Youth of the Year

Wed, Jan 29, 2020

The Youth of the Year program recognizes and seeks to celebrate those Club members who embrace & embody the characteristics of leadership and service, academic success, and healthy lifestyles. Staff mentors help each member with essay writing, as well as interviewing and public speaking skills, to showcase their achievements and development. Participants are presented with many opportunities to practice and hone their skills in front of their peers, the public, and a panel of selected community judges. Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Club member can achieve. Select Youth earn scholarship funds at every level of the program, with an opportunity to participate at State, Regional, and National levels. The Youth of the Year program can radically change the lives of Club members. Beyond scholarship funds, participants meet influential people in many industries. The program can assist a student in earning admission at prestigious Universities throughout the country, be leveraged to attain high-level summer internships and programs, and provides the participant with important life skills.

There is no cost to attend the event, yet an RSVP is required. Online registration is available from the menu or contact Heather Greenlaw at or 360-419-3723 x8 to be put on a guest list. Seating is limited. Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County would like to thank the Hendricks Family Foundation for sponsoring this program.

Eaglemont Golf Course, 6:30pm, Dinner Served
4800 Eaglemont Dr, Mount Vernon, WA 98274

Our Youth of the Year Program will be presented during Dinner, with an Award Ceremony to follow. 

About our Youth of the Year Program: Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking. The program is most effective when used as a year-round tool for fostering young people’s character, personal growth and leadership qualities.

Local Clubs go through a development and selection process of member’s ages 14 to 18 during the summer and fall, with each Club ultimately putting forward a Youth of the Year candidate to the Organizational event in early winter. One candidate is selected to represent all of Skagit County at the State event, typically held in March. At the state level, participants receive small scholarships, with the winner receiving more than $3,500 and the ability to participate at the Regional event during the summer. Through each level, youth gain additional public speaking and interview skills, and often emerge a completely changed young person, able to confront any obstacles in their way with panache.

Being named Youth of the Year at any level is the highest honor a Club member can earn, and with it comes great responsibility, but also significant opportunities to network with civic and corporate leaders, grow as an individual, create relationships with other peer leaders at Clubs throughout the County and State, and have an experience that is referred to time and again as ‘once in a lifetime’.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County are poised to transition from a passive Youth of the Year program to a very active one. To do this, an investment is needed, not only to provide additional incentives for participation, but to underwrite the expenses associated with the proper development. Because of the one-on-one nature of this process, it is often the most expensive work the Club does. However, the return on investment has shown to be consistently significant, and we wish to join the ranks of organizations throughout the State of Washington who are realizing the difference that participation has in the life of our teens.

The Kevin Oliver Memorial Leadership Award

The Kevin Oliver Memorial Leadership Award was established in 2014 to help recognize one youth each year who demonstrates the virtues of courage, perseverance, and humility, as exemplified in good character & leadership. This annual award, dedicated to the memory of Kevin Oliver, is given to the County-nominated Youth of the Year, as a way of enabling their participation in the State Youth of the Year program, and providing the opportunity for continued growth & maturation.

This yearly memorial of Kevin Oliver, recognizing his passion for the youth of Skagit County, and his dedication to personal improvement, was awarded to Kyla Whiton, to help cover the trip costs to Seattle & Olympia for the State Youth of the Year program. As we reflect on the purpose and impact of this Leadership Award, we are thrilled to see such a great return on the gracious support of the Olivers. Kyla’s performance throughout the process of preparing for Youth of the Year, and her hard work throughout the competition– is the best fulfillment of the Award’s purpose. We celebrate with the Olivers, all those who have contributed to the Award, with Kyla, and with all our Board, staff, and partners about the the opportunities for #GreatFutures that have been created.

Sedro Woolley Club Teen Aspires to Practice Law

Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County’s 2017 Youth of the Year Paula Banda has had many opportunities to share her Club story publicly, as part of her journey within the Youth of the Year Program. Part of her story includes her goals for the future—to attend Harvard and practice Immigration Law. Several local lawyers heard her speech and reached out to help with career advice. Recently, Paula and a small group of teens from the Sedro-Woolly Boys & Girls Club had a chance to meet these lawyers to learn about their practice.

Laura Riquelme, who works as public defender for Skagit County, and has recently served as a judge as well, gave Paula and a few of her friends a tour of the Skagit County courthouse. She gave the Club members an overview of the work she does, how it affects the community, and how she decided to pursue a career in law. She also shared some great insights on the difference between being a judge and being a lawyer.

Joseph Bowen was born and raised in Skagit Valley. After law school he came back to the area and eventually opened up his own law practice. He took the time to sit down with the Woolley teens and talk about motivation and determination. He detailed the journey he took from Skagit County to Harvard to law school at UW back to Skagit County and encouraged the Boys & Girls Clubs members to set their goals high.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County would like to thank everyone involved for taking the time to share their career knowledge with the Club members.

Youth of the Year & Beyond 

On March 20th, Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County’s 2017 Youth of the Year, Paula Banda traveled to Olympia with her advisor and Sedro-Woolley Club Teen Director, Patrick Dougher, along with other Club staff to participate in the Washington State Youth of the Year Program. Meeting up with the Youth of the Year candidates representing other Club organizations throughout the state, the weeklong program is focused on celebrating the incredible leaders that each candidate has become, and their personal journey to the competition. The Youth of the Year participants work closely together throughout the development process, sharing exclusive experiences, over the days in Seattle and Olympia. Reflecting on the her time spent on the trip, Paula remarked, “I loved how close I got with the other candidates. It felt like we’d all been friends for years.”

Paula and her new Youth of the Year friends attended a breakfast reception at the Governor’s mansion, where she spent time talking with Senator Kirk Pearson and Governor Jay Inslee. After a tour of the Capitol Building, the candidates traveled together to Seattle to prepare for the Youth of the Year competition, stopping at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the exclusive opportunity to meet renowned Bobby Wagner, of the Seahawks. The teens were also treated with a stop at Tumwater Family Fun Center for relaxation, before heading to the Space Needle where they practiced their speeches and brushed up on interview skills. A limo ride to Dick’s Drive-In for dinner rounded out an incredible day. “Overall, the Youth of the Year program is a rich experience for teen members, balanced with opportunities for growth and a lot of fun. The Washington State Boys & Girls Club Association really lays out the red carpet to make the participants feel special.” says CEO Ron McHenry. 

Given the focus on Character & Leadership development throughout the entire Youth of the Year process, the remaining time spent in Seattle was focused on practicing speeches, and engaging in interviews. “I used to feel really shy about talking to professionals, but now I feel a lot more comfortable with it, because of the tips I learned at Youth of the Year,” Paula reflected. Judges of the whole competition come from state and regional industry leadership, community organizations, elected positions, and represent a wide snapshot of the collaboration that makes for thriving communities in Washington. The judges read all the applications and personal essays for each candidate, they listen to speeches, and they conduct panel interviews of the teens. The arduous process helps better prepare all the teens for post-high school plans, and gives them an introduction to a wide range of career paths available.

It was an inspiring night on March 23rd, with over 300 in attendance to hear each candidate’s speech at the Washington State Youth of the Year Dinner at the Bell Harbor Event Center in Seattle. Paula’s speech relayed her struggle with bullying and finding the right place to fit in. It was at the Club that she found that safe place to learn and grow. A child of immigrant parents, the scare of deportation of her family hit Paula at a young age, and it was through overcoming that obstacle, with the help of the Club, that she set her goals high for success. 

Every youth’s speech was a testament to how the Boys & Girls Club played a pivotal role in their life. The stories were personal, some with great hardship, and some with an acceptance that hardship may come– but they had confidence and skills to stay focused on their goals and dreams.  Gee Scott, ESPN Announcer and Emcee, joked that after hearing about their goals for the future, he needed to “go home and re-evaluate his life.” Paula had full support from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County with many guests in attendance; her family, Club staff, and fellow Club members in the program, there to learn and gain from the experience. Director of Operations, Manny Smith remarked, “I know its not easy for these kids to get up and tell their personal story. It would be difficult for anyone. They meet these high expectations, and surprise us, and I think, even surprise themselves with what they are able to accomplish.”

Since being named Youth of the Year last January, Paula Banda has been very busy, speaking at various Civic and Club events, while maintaining her schoolwork, where she also participates in orchestra. In her 7 years as a Club member, Paula has been an eager participant in Club programs and is often volunteers at Club events and fundraisers to lend a hand. Paula now looks to her future. As a young Youth of the Year, she still has High School to look forward to. She plans to enroll in Running Start at Skagit Valley College, with the goal of reaching Harvard, and a degree in Immigration Law, with many in her community eager to support her in her endeavors.