Better Makers: Boys and Girls Club of Chicago Crowns Chicago’s Youth of the Year

Once a year, a leading teen earns Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s (BGCC) highest praise, the Youth of the Year (YOY) Award. The prestigious honor is a tribute to outstanding leadership, service, and academic excellence. Joshua H., 17-year-old member of the Louis L. Valentine Club in Bridgeport, took the title for this year’s Youth of the Year.

The competition begins months in advance, with clubs across the city nominating exceptional young leaders. Simulating the run for office, finalists spend months leading up to the award preparing and  positioning themselves in the best possible light: writing essays, preparing speeches, collaborating on projects, and honing their presentation skills.

The six finalists — Joshua H. of the Valentine Club, James C. of the Pedersen-McCormick Club, Estrella B. of CC’s Little Village Club, Liannah F. of the Linda & Bill Gantz Club, Jocelynn J. of the True Value Club, and Anthony B. of the Jordan Club — were all recognized as influencers in their communities. Each member gave a speech, offering the 1,000 guests a peak into their lives.

Emceed by NBC Chicago’s Alex Maragos, the marquee event drew supporters and BGCC representatives from across the city. The March 7 event was held in the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

All finalists received a laptop computer courtesy of CDW, four Chicago White Sox tickets courtesy of the Sox, and $1,000 in educational support. The winner, Joshua, received an additional gift of two round trip tickets courtesy of United Airlines.

Early in Joshua’s life, his father became ill. He quickly took on the role of caregiver, along with the adult responsibilities and pressures. Joshua found poetry as his therapeutic outlet. Understanding the direct impact it had on his life, Joshua continues to be a light for other kids, helping peers find their voice and feel heard.

Joshua participates in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s Passport to Manhood program, which he says helped shape his view of manhood today. He plans to continue this work and help change the stigma surrounding masculinity and emotional expression.

Joshua will advance onto the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Illinois State competition with the hopes of moving onto the regional and national competitions.

boys and girls club: Mimi LeClair and Joshua H.
Youth of the Year Winner Joshua H. posing with Mimi LeClair, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Chicago.
boys and girls club: Joe Ferraro, William T. Huffman Jr., Youth of the Year
Youth of the Year Winner Joshua H. posing with Youth of the Year Event Chairs Joe Ferraro and William T. Huffman Jr.
boys and girls club: Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department
Chicago Police Department Officers and Company: Lt. Wayne Wiberg, Police Officer Nicole Deluca, Cmdr. Sean Loughran, Cmdr. Steve Chung, Lt. Mark Sedevic, Police Officer Sabrina King, Police Officer Cheryl Clark, Police Officer Angel Mendez, Sheri Mendez, Police Officer Antonio Guereca, and Sgt. Karlene Gurtowski.
boys and girls club: Bartlett J. McCartin III
Board Chairman Bartlett J. McCartin III giving opening remarks.
boys and girls club: Pamela Spikner, Mindy Blandford
Guests Pamela Spikner and Mindy Blandford at the 2019 Youth of the Year event.
boys and girls club
Impact: Local Chicago Boys and Girls Club members thanking guests for their donations. Serving Chicago families since 1902, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago uses a comprehensive blend of mentoring and programming to provide youth ages 6 to 18 the tools they need to become well-rounded and successful adults.

Emily Stone is Associate Editor at Make It Better. She earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work is published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.



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