Boys and Girls Club honors ‘Youth of the Year’ at Champions for Kids Luncheon


By Shawn Kirkpatrick
Opelika Observer

“A Place to Become” was the slogan for this year’s Greater Lee County Boys and Girls Club’s Champions for Kids Luncheon. Youth of the Year awards were given at the luncheon, as well as the Jane Walker Community Champion Award to Bill and Patsy Parker. The award is named after Jane C. Walker, a supporter of the Boys and Girls Club.
The year-long fundraising campaign was also launched for the BGCA. The keynote speaker was Allison Black Cornelius, founder and president of Blackfish Strategies. Shanecia Little, a senior at Opelika High School, was awarded the Youth of the Year award for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County’s Potter-Daniel Unit. She explained what the club means to her.
“Two months before my 17th birthday, I lost my mom due to domestic violence. Other teens my age would have either given up or quit school. I want to continue my education. After I graduate I want to go to Troy University and become a social worker and help kids that have gone through the same thing or something similar,” said Little. “The Boys and Girls Club has helped me be a leader in the community, at my school and at home. Without the Boys and Girls Club I don’t know where I would be.” Booker T. Washington High School senior Naimah Hakeem was named as the 2018 Lee County Youth of the Year award recipient representing the Auburn Boys and Girls Club unit. She was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and will compete in Montgomery in March for more scholarships.
Resource Development Director Betty Burns explained what the club’s needs are for the year. “What we are really looking for is to upgrade our technology for our computer lab. We want to make sure our system runs concurrently with what the school system is using. We want to give the kids the same opportunity that everyone has. A lot of them don’t have access to a computer and the internet at home.”
Burns said general funding is also an issue. “The more staff we have the better programs we have to serve the students. I know it’s a non-profit so they don’t get paid an enormous amount of money. So we want to offer somewhat competitive wages. We want to hire quality youth development professionals, not warm bodies.”
Board Chairperson Carolyn Reid summed up the focus of the day’s events – the boys and girls. “Our youth are fantastic. I never met one of these children who haven’t inspired me. This is the day to celebrate the Champions of Kids in our community,” said Reid. “The Boys and Girls Club is a place where they can grow into successful, productive citizens.”
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