Local freshman wins Youth of the Year Award

Leadership is a “buzzword” among high school and college excellence programs, but for those who embody it, the skill truly is vital to future success, and students across the country are embodying what it means to be a leader.

Elizabethton’s Boys and Girls Club recently named their local Youth of the Year, the winner of a prestigious, national recognition: freshman Kylee Evans.

Ginny Wright, executive director of the club, said this is one of the organization’s most prominent programs.

“Every month we host a Youth of the Month competition,” Wright said. “Every year, we invite the winners of that for the Youth of the Year program.”

The application process is not only invitational but also intensive. Applicants go through three separate essay submissions, one-on-one interviews, speeches, and they must provide multiple letters of recommendations from the community.

Evans, vice president in her student government and president of the Spanish Club, said she wrote essays about education disparity, what she described as a lack of resources for both teachers and parents.

“I think we should pay teachers more,’ Evans said. “If parents do not have enough income, students are less likely to graduate high school.

“We are preparing them for future success,” she said. “Most of these applicants have not spoken to people like this before, so they have to push themselves.”

She said the program both teaches and tests “soft skills,” such as maintaining eye contact while talking, how to give a proper handshake and how to interact with people in a former setting.

“You usually have to learn these outside of school,” Wright said.

Evans said she gives back to her community through her leadership experience.

“I have compassionate leadership,” she said. “I care about other people’s opinions.”

The program is actually part of the national organization itself, so finalists here get to attend the state-level competition in Nashville, where they get to learn leadership skills and team-building exercises. The local winner then gets to compete for the state competition. This year, all four applicants get to attend, but only Evans gets to compete.

“I love watching kids grow and develop,” Wright said. “They have to dig deep. One of the required essays is ‘What does the Boys and Girls Club mean to you?’ It is gratifying, knowing this organization really does make a difference with the kids.”

Evans said she wants to use her leadership in the future to make a difference.

“I like guiding people in the right direction,” she said. “I want people to know what I am trying to be, not what I am trying to become.”

She said self-confidence is the key.

“I believe you should strive for greatness and not let anything hold you back.”

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