Youth of the Year

Youth of the Year is our signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world economy. Each year, one exceptional local Club member is selected to compete in the state competition.  The winner of the state competition goes on to compete in the National Youth of the Year Competition, the winner serves as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth as well as a voice for all of our young people. Over the decades, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club mission and are proof to the impact Clubs make in transforming and saving kids’ lives. Youth of the Year winners have achieved success in a variety of industries, including entertainment, politics, business and sports.

Since 1947, Youth of the Year has been Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier recognition program, celebrating Club members’ extraordinary achievements. Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be the National Youth of the Year. This person serves as an exemplary ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth and as a strong voice for all of our nation’s young people. The journey to being named National Youth of the Year begins locally and progresses to the state, regional and national levels. To achieve the title of Youth of the Year on any level, Club members must embody the values of leadership and service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. They should exemplify the critical impact Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives of young people.

The objective is to select the Youth of the Year who best embodies the qualities of leadership and service, academic excellence and living a healthy lifestyle, and who can speak to the impact that their Club or BGCA-Affiliated Youth Center has made in their life. They should be involved in their community, advocate for issues affecting today’s youth, as well as demonstrate leadership skills in their interactions with others and in their communities. They create meaningful change and motivate and inspire others.

If you would like information on becoming a judge for the 2024 Youth of the Year competition, please contact Katie Sweeney at [email protected]

To make a donation to improve our Youth of the Year competition and Club programming, click here.

From L to R: Judge Nancy Blair-Bonk with FedEx, Judge Paula Gagnier with Planters Bank, Judge Gary Giles with Monogram Foods, Carissa Smith, Club Director of the Ira Samelson Jr Boys & Girls Club, Fatou Diallo the 2023 Youth of the Year winner, Keith Blanchard, President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, Judge Joe Tomek with the FedEx St Jude Championship, Judge Fran McRae with WREG Channel 3, and Judge Caroline Doherty with the Pettey Moore Advisory Group of Raymond James.
Club Directors with their Club’s Nominee from L to R: Jeffrey Dunnigan with Nominee Toni Walter – Bernal E Smith Club, Chris Garner with Nominee Jada Lloyd – Craigmont High School Club, Carissa Smith with Nominee Fatou Diallo – Ira Samelson Jr Club, Ron Nelson with NomineeTamia Jones – John Dustin Buckman Club, Lawrence Young with Nominee Xavier Coleman – Oakhaven Club, Paula Guyton with Nominee Jairus Kendall – Sycamore View Club.

Fatou Diallo is a 16-year-old Junior at Bartlett High School with a 4.2 GPA. Fatou is the only child to her parents who moved from Senegal, West Africa when she was only four years old. Fatou has been a member of the Ira Samelson Jr. Boys & Girls Club for two years now. When Fatou is at the club, she enjoys anything sports related. Triple play is definitely one of Fatou’s favorites. She also enjoys Team Building activities. Fatou is very passionate about helping others. She likes to help staff whenever she can by passing out lunch or helping assist with the smaller club members. She credits the Boys & Girls Club with helping her during a difficult time in her life. She has built lifelong bonds with people she could relate to and share common interest.

Fatou believes in constantly challenging herself. She plans to study Psychology at Christian Brothers University, which will be a challenge in itself. However, she is up for it and will not stop trying to reach that goal and beyond. Fatou feels her time with the Boys & Girl Club has inspired her and hopes what she has learned will help her significantly change people’s lives.

In Fatou’s speech, she stated “I still remember the first day I walked into Boys & Girls Club when I was 14 years old and school was out for the summer. Due to the fact that I’m an only child, I am very bad at socializing and I don’t get out of the house much. I didn’t want to have a boring summer so I asked my cousin to put me in the Boys & Girls club. I wanted not only to have a good summer, but also to meet and make new friends, develop my social skills, and strengthen my leadership skills. I wanted to build these skills especially because I would be starting high school that August. Boys & Girls club is where I strengthened my social skills, met different people, built unforgettable relationships, and learned to understand the hardships of others and consider them. My first couple of days at the summer camp, I was so nervous and I would just stay to myself. The staff encouraged me to socialize with the other kids and to participate in the activities with the other kids. I remember the staff having us play a fun ice breaker game called the name motion game. This activity helped not only me but other teens also. We did many fun activities such as: playing basketball, date smart, and chef club that made it easier for me to get used to the new people around me. As I grew closer and more united with everyone, I felt so happy and loved. The club became my happy place. As the 2023 Youth of the Year winner, she was awarded the Irby Cooper Scholarship $1,000 toward the college of her choice.