Local Boys and Girls Club announces 2022 Youth of the Year winner
Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022
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The Boys and Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County is pleased to congratulate Kenlee Blackburn, who has been chosen as this year’s 2022 Youth of the Year.
Club CEO Shelly Parham called Kenlee “a role model, a leader and an advocate for the youth who come to the Club every day.”
In addition to the recognition, Kenlee will also receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Club upon graduation to be used for post-high school continued education.
Runners-up for this year’s competition were Gracie Yoder and Frankie Yoder.
Since 1947, Youth of the Year has been Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier leadership program, distinguishing and celebrating the extraordinary achievements of Club members who embody the values of leadership, service, academic excellence, and healthy lifestyles. Each year, thousands of Club teens participate in local, state and regional Youth of the Year events.
This year, the BGCECC held its competition on February 19, with three of the Club’s most distinguished teens competing for the local title.
Per national guidelines, competing Club members were required to write three essays, provide letters of recommendation and present a speech in front of judges. Additionally, they underwent an interview process with each judge. They were scored in each area of the competition with the judges determining the winner.
Kenlee intends to become an optometrist and to spend her career serving others in this way. She said she found her positive influence in Club staff, especially her Teen Director, Ms. Nicole. From middle to high school, Kenlee has spent her after-school time involved in Club programming, from her early days to this past spring where she completed the Boys & Girls Club of America Junior Staff or Workforce Ready program. This afforded her employment as a Junior Staff within the Club where she has also served as a mentor, which she says is her “second nature.”
Calling herself, “painfully shy and introverted,” Kenlee, a 16-year-old junior at Elizabethton High School, credits her experience at the Club with helping her to open up and better communicate with her peers and with others. “I began to come out of my shell and the real Kenlee started to shine through,” she said. “I began to feel better about who I was, and I had staff and new friends who helped bring this out.
“Who I am today is someone who is unafraid to be herself,” she added. “I don’t care as much about what other people think about me. I am proud of who I am and where I come from.“
Kenlee will serve as Youth of the Year, representing the BGCECC throughout 2022-23, and she looks forward to involving herself in a variety of club events and community volunteerism.
“There is no doubt she will serve the Elizabethton Club like a shining star,” Parham added. “She is a remarkable young woman.”