‘I wouldn’t be the person I am today’
2018 Youth of the Year reflects on learning, leadership
Brent Knight had a tough decision: help lead the Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region to volleyball victory or defend his title as the club’s Youth of the Year.
The 16-year-old junior at James Irwin Charter High School is a lifelong athlete who discovered a love and passion for volleyball his freshman year. But at the same time, he had long wanted to be the club’s Youth of the Year. He claimed the title at age 15 but has yet to help his club team tackle the tournament circuit.
So when he realized that the youth competition would interfere with his game schedule, he had a choice to make. Athletics won out … for now.
“I’ve been running for Youth of the Year since my freshman year,” said the articulate teen with the infectious laugh. “I did it twice and I had started the process of doing it a third time, then I had to drop out.”
For Knight, the club is more than a place to spend time after school. In many ways, it’s family.
His father Derrick Knight was a club employee, and Brent would tag along to work long before he was old enough to join. He became a member as soon as he was qualified; then, in either fifth or sixth grade, Knight doesn’t remember precisely which, he met a reigning club Youth of the Year.
“Listening to her story and just like seeing how much of an impact she had on other people within her community, and seeing her branch out and become a leader … was so inspiring to me,” Knight said. “From then on, that was always one of my main things. I wanted to be Youth of the Year.”
That’s no small undertaking.
To qualify, youths ages 14 to 18 must write three essays, gather letters of recommendation from three adults, complete an extensive written application, and write, memorize and deliver a three-minute speech that weaves together the different elements of their personal essays. To top it off, the speech must be delivered without notes before a panel of judges and an audience that, in recent years, has numbered in the hundreds. The contest takes place during the club’s premier gala fundraiser.
“That’s just for the local level,” Knight said with a grin.
Knight doesn’t balk at hard work. He is an honors student who studies college-level English, AP physics and honors trigonometry. He holds a job at a local restaurant, and has set his sights on studying biomedical engineering, sports therapy and kinesiology in college.
Until then, he plans to establish an educational program called Youth for Unity at the local Boys & Girls Club.
“He really does have a heart for people,” said Jrace Rider, club senior director and Knight’s Youth of the Year mentor.
Knight takes the praise in stride. If he can inspire another club member to succeed, it’s worth the work.
“Most people, when they hear Boys & Girls Club, think after-school program,” he said. “It’s so much more.
“The mentors there care about you so much. They push you to be a better person. They teach you leadership skills through the programs you go through. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”