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T.A. Dugger Jr. High student named “Youth of The Year”

By Lynn J. Richardson
 A fifteen-year-old T.A. Dugger student has been awarded what Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County Executive Director Ginny Wright calls “the highest honor a Club can bestow.”
Lucian A. LaFluer received the Club’s 2021 Youth of the Year Award during a recent luncheon at the Club’s Hudson Drive location, with family, friends and the Club’s board and staff in attendance.
The Youth of the Year program is a BGC national competition that honors the country’s most “awe-inspiring young people on their path to great futures.” Club members compete first at the local level, with winners progressing to state, regional and then national competitions.
“It is designed to encourage teens to lead, succeed and inspire,” Wright said.
LaFluer participated with two other candidates — Barbara Palmer and Katelyn Gilbert. All three shared their stories, applications and speeches with a group of community leaders serving as judges.
Following the announcement that LaFluer had been chosen for the award, the eighth grader addressed the group, talking candidly about challenges he and his friends face daily.
Specifically, he told the group about tackling his own personal difficulty with shyness and how being part of the Club has helped him overcome that struggle.
“From a distance, shyness might seem like someone who just doesn’t want to talk or be around people,” LaFluer said. “But if you take another look, you will see that…we want to be in a group. We want to be able to talk in public easily, but we just can’t.”
LaFluer said that joining the Club four years ago was a turning point for him, providing him with acceptance and kindness.
“Before I knew it, I was not only making friends, but good friendships,” he said. “My Boys & Girls Club helped me put my life back in order….their care and concern for all of us who come to the club means more than they will probably ever know.”
LaFluer serves as a Peer Mentor at the Club, mentoring younger members, assisting with group activities and working one-on-one with members to learn social skills.
He also serves as a peer tutor, helping the members with remote learning and homework, assisting younger members with their school work on virtual learning days.
Additionally, he assists staff members with odd jobs and Club service tasks.
BGCECC Board President Bob Acuff told the group, “We reach out to those who need us most.
“We offer academic help to these young people so that when they leave high school, whether it be to pursue a degree in higher education, employment, military or the trades, they will be ready.”
Acuff also discussed the importance the Club places on providing opportunities for daily exercise and healthy lifestyle. He also praised Wright and the BGCECC staff for their hard work, not only at the Hudson Drive center, but for opening a second Club location in Hunter during “a very challenging year.”
“We strive to develop individuals to become good citizens,” Acuff added. “We want them to learn how to participate and be involved in their community and to make a difference.”
As the local Club’s winner, LaFluer also participated in the Tennessee Youth of the Year competition, which was held virtually on March 30.