Youth of the Year

Since 1947, Youth of the Year has been the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier recognition program, celebrating the extraordinary achievements of Club teens. Club members who earn the Youth of the Year title embody the values of leadership service; academic excellence; and healthy lifestyles. They exemplify the critical impact that Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives of young people.

Local Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month Winners and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $5,000 scholarship and advance to regional competitions.

Regional winners receive an additional $10,000 college scholarship, renewable for four years up to $40,000. Six youth, including five regional winners and a military winner, advance to the National Youth of the Year competition for a chance at an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable up to $100,000 for four years. The National Youth of the Year represents all Boys & Girls Club youth.

Youth of the Year

Payton Bowdry with President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Jim Clark, at the Midwest Youth of the Year competition.

2024 Youth of the Year — Kalvin Vang

Youth of the Year

“I’ve always been known as somebody’s son, brother, cousin, never myself — feeling like I was in the shadow of others my entire life … am I even good enough … I thought no one would notice me … Thanks to the guidance that I received at the East Side Boys & Girls Club, I understand myself better and I finally have a voice.”

Kalvin Vang, the Youth of the Year candidate from our East Side Club was named BGCTC’s Youth of the Year on January 31, 2024. When Kalvin first joined the Club two years ago, he was bashful and unsure of his worth. The Club became a safe space for Kalvin to step out of his comfort zone and explore his own identity.

By participating in the Career Launch curriculum, Kalvin has been able to develop his leadership skills and put them to use by leading his peers as Volleyball Captain and obtaining his first job at the East Side Boys & Girls Club. Kalvin, along with a team of East Side Boys & Girls Club teens, is participating in this year’s “Changemaker Challenge,” a project designed to inspire and support those who aim to make a difference in their communities. Kalvin’s project is focused on bringing awareness to the importance of self-worth and mental well-being. He cares deeply for the mental well-being of others and is always willing to lend an ear to his peers.

2023 Youth of the Year — Natalia Love

Youth of the Year

BGCTC’s 2023 Youth of the Year is Natalia Love of the Patrick Henry High School Boys & Girls Club. Natalia has been active in the Clubs since middle school and has been a leader ever since. She is active in Teen Pathways and Money Matters programming, was a team captain at leadership camp and is a Beacons youth instructor. She is also the president of the Black Student Union at her school and takes the lead on planning fundraisers and outings for their group. Natalia creates safe spaces for everyone around her and works hard to promote safe spaces and mental wellness.

Natalia will be attending Minnesota State University, Mankato to pursue a Social Work degree and plans to continue her involvement with the Clubs for years to come.

2022 Youth of the Year — Osman Hernandez

Youth of the Year

 “It wasn’t until I became a member of the East Side Boys & Girls Club that I was finally able to find my inner voice.”

Osman Hernandez, the Youth of the Year candidate from our East Side Club, was named BGCTC’s Youth of the Year on February 17, 2022. Osman is a great leader and brings passion and care to everything he does at the Club and beyond. He has goals to make the transition to life in America easier for Latino immigrants- both youth and their parents. Osman is the captain of his volleyball team and has helped the team grow a lot and win many championships since becoming a part of it.

After winning BGCTC’s Youth of the Year, Osman went on to be named Minnesota’s Youth of the Year on April 26, 2022. He was awarded a Home Team Scholarship and took a trip to Chicago for the Midwest Youth of the Year competition. He’s also been named a Lenzmeier Scholar and is an incoming Freshman at the University of Minnesota this fall! 

2021 Youth of the Year — Kou Her

Youth of the Year

“I believe that I can represent America’s youth by making impactful changes to the community with my voice. I hope to create this change by advocating for youth who do not have a father figure. Giving them a voice and helping provide them with the love and support they need to grow will have a huge impact on their lives, and give them the tools they need to be successful.”

Kou Her, the Youth of the Year candidate from our East Side Club, was named BGCTC’s Youth of the Year on March 11, 2021. Kou first came to the Clubs as part of a volleyball partnership in the summer of 2019. In just two years, Kou has grown into an impassioned leader who is always looking for ways to help in his community.

Kou describes himself as determined, empathetic, and always willing to work with others. During the summer of 2020, Kou worked part-time at the East Side Club, helping coordinate weekly food distributions to local families in need of additional resources and support through the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduation, Kou plans to attend college in Chicago to study computer science. Kou will go on to represent the Twin Cities at the Minnesota Youth of the Year competition on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. 

2020 Youth of the Year — Ke’la Scuefield

Youth of the Year
“Over the years, I have learned to be open-minded by listening to the viewpoints of others, even when they’re completely different from mine. Good leadership means not only being an advocate and a champion for disenfranchised individuals, but to also be a good listener and to understand that I may not know everything.”

Ke’la Scuefield, a senior from our Patrick Henry Club, was chosen as BGCTC’s Youth of the Year on January 31, 2020. Ke’la’s past endeavors included significant involvement in a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project, which involved the facilitation of focus groups to gather data on various mental health topics in communities of color, and her group later had the honor of presenting their project at the Beacons National Conference in San Francisco. An inspired optimist and a Club member for over seven years, Ke’la also received recognition for her leadership qualities through Beacons’ Big Homies mentoring program. On March 16, 2020, Ke’la won the title of Minnesota Youth of the Year during a virtual presentation, following the cancellation of in-person Youth of the Year events due to safety concerns surrounding the growing COVID-19 pandemic. After graduating from Patrick Henry High School, Ke’la went on to attend Morgan State University, a prestigious HBCU in Maryland.

2019 Youth of the Year — Anaa Jibicho

Youth of the Year
“We all have dreams but we usually do not know how to achieve them. But don’t worry, we all have strengths within us that will lead us to those dreams in time. Everything begins with a dream.”

On January 31, senior Anaa Jibicho of the Mt. Airy Club was named the 2019 Twin Cities Youth of the Year. Anaa has been an active member of the Club for nine years. He has participated in programs such as Career Launch, Money Matters, and Goals for Graduation, and has represented the Clubs as our Community Outreach intern. Education is Anaa’s number one priority. He is currently a full-time PSEO student at the University of Minnesota, completing 21 credits last semester, and will be attending Pomona College in Claremont, California next fall on a full-ride scholarship.

2018 Youth of the Year — Heaven Cunningham

Youth of the Year
“I am happy to have another place to call home, and I am honored to say it is my local Boys & Girls Club”

Heaven Cunningham has been a member of the East Side Boys & Girls Club for the past five years. In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, Heaven has been involved with Girl Scouts since 2015. Heaven has a rigorous course load in school, taking several AP classes and maintaining a 3.4 GPA. Heaven leads an active lifestyle by being involved in her school’s cheerleading team as the captain, and helps to recruit members for Boys & Girls Clubs sports leagues. Heaven is dedicated to volunteering and service, and has been the VP of the Keystone Club since 2015.

2017 Youth of the Year — Anaa Jibicho

Youth of the Year
Anaa has been a Club member for the past seven years. He has participated in many programs such as Career Launch, Money Matters, Goals for Graduation, and the new Teen Pathways program. As part of the Pathways program, Anaa became a Community Outreach intern. Anaa also recently became the president of the Keystone Club at Mt. Airy.

Outside of the Club, Anaa works hard as a part of the National Honor Society and JROTC. He makes his education a priority, and is at the top of his graduating class. He plans to attend college in the fall of 2019 to study to become a neurosurgeon!

2016 Youth of the Year — Payton Bowdry

Youth of the Year
“I understand that being the Youth of the Year comes with great responsibility. I know the significance that this position holds, and I want to use my influence to better the lives of young people across the nation. I know that with a Boys & Girls Club in the life of every youth, we would all have an opportunity for a brighter and more positive future.”