King and queens of clubs

Three teens on quest for Youth of the Year title

It starts with the essays — three of them, to be precise.

Then there are the letters of recommendation — again, three.

There are the application, the biographies and the speech.

Then there’s delivering the entire package, without notes, to a 200-plus-person audience that has paid big bucks to be there.

No, it’s not the world’s craziest job interview. It’s the process that a young man and two young women have undertaken over the past several months on a quest to be named the Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region 2019 Youth of the Year.

The club winner will be announced Feb. 21 at a gala dinner and celebration that begins at 6 p.m. at the Antlers, 4 S. Cascade Ave. That teen will go on to represent the club at the state championship in Denver.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Sherrell Bethel, assistant program director of the Boys & Girls Club. “The kids who have been through it know, ‘OK, this is the process.’ ”

Marissa Mitchell from the Southeast E.A. Tutt Club and Zane Merrill and Rebecca Starnes, both representing the Westside’s El Pomar Club, will make their bids for the prestigious title.

“The Youth of the Year [candidates] that we work with are pretty phenomenal,” said Jrace Rider, the club’s senior director. “The kids are all up there, pouring their hearts out and doing what they can.”

No small undertaking

That may be a bit of an understatement, when you consider the process.

To qualify, Youth of the Year hopefuls must meet age and academic requirements (high schoolers with at least a 2.9 GPA). They must pen three personal essays detailing their club experiences; their visions for America’s youth, including a challenge facing today’s youth that they would like to address; and their personal brands — that is, their personal values, unique strengths and passions.

Each hopeful has to gather letters of recommendation supporting his or her leadership, character and service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyle. Each letter must be written by an adult, and the guidelines specify that the writers must come from the teen’s club, academic and personal circles. The students must also complete a detailed application and provide a biography.

“These kids are getting groomed in ways they don’t even realize is going to be so beneficial to them later. If you are better today than you were yesterday, you’re winning.” — Jrace Rider, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pikes Peak Region senior director

Then they tie it all together by writing, editing, memorizing and delivering a three-minute speech that incorporates elements of each of their essays. Oh, and the speech must be delivered before a panel of judges and a captive audience of club supporters. The gala is not only a contest, but a club fundraiser and an opportunity to showcase the exceptional youths who call the clubs home.

“It’s good for the kids to be able to share,” Bethel said. “When they finally give their speech … they understand their impact.”

Life lessons

Qualifying and competing for the coveted title sounds like a lot, and it undoubtedly is. But the students don’t go it alone. Each youth has a mentor who guides him or her along the way.

“It’s a powerful program, it’s definitely my favorite,” Bethel said. “It’s one of the times that you really get to mentor a kid one-on-one. They open up, they tell you things that they typically don’t tell other people.”

The mentors not only help edit essays and polish speeches, they also teach the youths about appropriate behavior — from stage presence to body language — and etiquette. They’ll even take hopefuls shopping to help them pick out a competition-worthy outfit.

“These kids are getting groomed in ways that they don’t even realize is going to be so beneficial to them later,” Rider said. “If you are better today than you were yesterday, you’re winning.”

Onward and upward

The victor of the club contest will move on to compete at the state level. The teen named the Colorado Youth of the Year will receive a $5,000 scholarship and the right to represent the Centennial State at the Southwest regional championship in Dallas, Texas.

Whomever clinches the Southwest title will walk away with a $40,000 scholarship, bragging rights and the chance to vie for the $100,000 Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year title.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America also follow a similar process to name the Military Youth of the Year. There are 13 civilian clubs and four military clubs in Colorado, according to the Boys & Girls Clubs in Colorado website. Three of the four military clubs are at the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson.


What: The Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region Youth of the Year Dinner and Celebration

When: 6 p.m. Feb. 21

Where: The Antlers Heritage Ballroom, 4 S. Cascade Ave.

Cost: $200 individual tickets,
$1,000-$10,000 table
sponsorships available

RSVP: By Feb. 7 at

Information or questions: Nancy Cramer at
(719) 570-7077 or

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.