Youth of the Year winners from five local Clubs administered by BGCNMS competed before a panel of judges for the distinct honor of being named the organization’s YOY. Representing Clubs were 15 year-old Wadley of the Oxford L-O-U Club, 18 year-old Julie Atkinson of the Houston Club, 17 year-old Asia Smith of the Ripley Club, 13 year-old Shadarianna Weathington of the Haven Acres Club and 14 year-old Zakiyah Brown of the Northside Club .
Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. The title recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and local club. The program was founded more than 60 years ago through the generosity of the Reader’s Digest Foundation. Each club selects a local winner who moves on in competition with other local North Mississippi Youth.
Zach will travel to Jackson in February where he will represent the organization in State competition competing with other BGC youth from throughout Mississippi for the State Youth of the Year title.
“We are extremely proud of all our Youth of the Year finalists from our local Clubs,” said Zell Long, Chief Professional Officer of the BGCNMS. “They are all truly winners; we are fortunate to have them as a part of our program.”
Zach has been a member of the L-O-U Clubhouse, led by Lamont Watkins, for eight years. During that time, he has taken part in a great number of youth development programs including the Keystone and Torch Clubs. Serving as President of the Keystone Club, Zach has led cleanup days in Oxford housing complexes as well as other community service projects. Zach participated in Oxford’s First MLK Day of Service in 2012 and is a part of Co-Ed, a community group led by students at The University of Mississippi, that participates in various service projects throughout the Oxford community including spending time with assisted living residents and serving meals to those in need.
Julie Atkinson was the Youth of the Year contestant representing the Houston clubhouse and has been a member of the facility, led by director Valerie Southward, for four years. While there, she has demonstrated strong leadership and participates in community service projects including canned food drives, Christmas caroling, the local library reading program and serves as a mentor to younger members. Outside of the club, Julie has more than 63 volunteer hours and also makes time to provide additional help to her parents with her younger siblings. A special talent Julie possesses is crocheting. Crocheting brings out her entrepreneur spirit as well as her compassion to help others. Julie has made many scarves for her classmates and this past year, she made a special scarf for a friend of fellow classmate battling cancer. A senior at Houston High School, Julie plans to attend Itawamba Community College and later open her own daycare.
“Boys & Girls Club helps parents and allows them to have less stress knowing their child is in a place where they can have homework help and are not in the streets getting into trouble,” stated Julie.
It is the mission of Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. Serving North Mississippi since 1996, the organization reaches more than 2,000 youth annually through clubhouse locations in Tupelo, Oxford, Ripley, New Albany and Houston. For more information on Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, please visit www.bgcnms.org.