6 high school students from local Boys & Girls clubs take home $13K in scholarships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Colorado celebrated its biggest night Wednesday by honoring its Youth of the Year nominees at the Colorado Mountain College auditorium in Steamboat Springs. While one confident young adult earned the top award, all six of the nominees took home a record amount of scholarships this year thanks to generous donors.
“Because of our sponsors, each candidate is going to get a $2,000 scholarship this year, and the winner will get an extra $1,000 for winning,” announced Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Dana Duran in front of an excited crowd of Boys & Club board members, supporters and families.
Maddie Counts, of Moffat County High School, won $3,000 and will go on to represent the Craig and Steamboat Springs clubs at the Colorado Youth of the Year selection in Denver this spring.
Steamboat Springs High School students Daisy Wilson, Mallory Thomas and Adalid Ponce and Moffat County High School students Reina Steele and Darbi Zimmerman each received $2,000 scholarships.
These young women were nominated for Youth of the Year recognition from the two clubs. Each went through a process of honing their speeches and answering judges’ questions during a preliminary session. Then each young woman gave her final speech Wednesday before a large crowd at CMC.
They talked about the challenges they faced growing up and how the Boys & Girls Club made a difference in their lives, both as young kids and eventually as junior staff members. The Boys & Girls Club’s influence could be seen firsthand as each of the girls confidently greeted and chatted with attendees as they arrived for the dinner and presentation.
Counts, the eventual winner, talked about a side of her she kept hidden from the children she helped coach at the Boys & Girls Club in Craig — her bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide. Counts spoke about how people saw her as fun, joyful and spontaneous at the club, and only when she learned that some of her students were thinking about suicide, did she herself get help.
“I heard two of the kids were planning to take their lives. It shattered my heart,” she told the audience. “I thought about how the kids I mentored would have been affected if I committed suicide.”
The other young women gave thoughtful speeches about their time in Boys & Girls Club with one having to deal with a teen pregnancy, another dealing with bullying and yet another who used the club to help get her through debilitating anxiety.
Former Craig Mayor and board member Dave DeRose, who helped bring the Boys & Girls Club to Northwest Colorado, summed up the Boys & Girls Club and its impact across the country as a whole.
“This is what happens when you have a Boys & Girls Club,” DeRose said. “We must mentor, educate and socialize our children, or we will be incarcerating them as adults.”
Sharing their stories
Maddie Counts, Moffat County High School senior
What did Boys & Girls Club help you overcome?
Depression, I did not want to get out of bed or do anything. I knew however that I had to get out of bed to come to the Boys & Girls Club. I would walk in the door, and one child in particular would run up to me, smile and give me hug.
Mallory Thomas, Steamboat Springs High School junior
Where would you be without the Boys & Girls Club?
I can’t imaging life without the Boys & Girls Club. I have been coming here since the doors opened. I have meet all my friends here. I would have been all alone growing up. It has always been a place to be me and a place that supports me.
Daisy Wilson, Steamboat Springs High School junior
What obstacle did the club help you overcome?
Engaging with others has always been hard for me. Coming here you could talk to anyone, you could play games with the kids and it makes you happy. If something is going on you can come to the Boys & Girls Club and get away from it all.
Reina Steele, Moffat County High School sophomore
Why did you apply to be a Youth of the Year?
I wanted to let people both inside the club and outside know my story. The Boys & Girls Club has taught developmental skills that have enabled me to be a leader not only in the club but in my community, too. I want people to know the club will help you be your best.
Darbi Zimmerman, Moffat County High School senior
What do you love about the Boys & Girls Club?
The way we build relationships with the kids and how we as a staff have so much support. The relationships and trust I have built with the staff and kids you can’t find anywhere else.
Adalid Ponce, Steamboat Springs High School senior
What are your future goals?
I want to go to college and pursue an education or early childhood learning degree. The Boys & Girls Club opened my eyes to my love of children, has inspired me to work with children and shown me that I can make a positive impact.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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