The Celebration Continues!

This Saturday, our new Youth of the Year, Rachael Cummings, made the front page of the Times Argus! We are so proud to have her represent not only the BTC, but all of Vermont!

Check out the article here! Or read below.

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Local teen recognized for leadership, advocacy
By

| April 25,2015

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Montpelier High School sophomore Rachael Cummings makes pretzels Friday at the Basement Teen Center in Montpelier. She was recently named Vermont Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Club of America.

MONTPELIER — A Montpelier teenager has been named Vermont Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Sixteen-year-old Rachael Cummings, a sophomore at Montpelier High School, has received $6,000 in college scholarship money with the award and will move on to a regional competition that could lead to a national title in Washington, D.C., in September.

Cummings has been an active member of the Basement Teen Center, a drop-in space at City Hall for ages 13 to 18, for more than three years.

“To say she’s a regular is an understatement,” said the center’s director, Nick Conner. “She’s there every day, and when she is there she is really engaged in all events we have going on.”

Conner, who nominated Cummings for the honor, is also the director of the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys and Girls Club, which administers the teen center program.

He said Cummings established herself as a leader and has helped the center raise money and implement programming. Each Friday it has a program called Tea Time, where Conner said Cummings has been a driving force in leading conversations on topics ranging from substance abuse to personal identity.

She has been a vocal advocate for gender equality too, he said. Often teens at the center will make comments such as, “Quit being a girl” or, “Be a man,” Conner said, and Cummings approaches those comments without finger-pointing. Instead she’ll ask questions like, “Are you trying to say that women are less than?”

Cummings is also vocal about her support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “I think that people should be able to identify themselves as who they are and not be confined by what sexual organ they have,” she said, adding that people often get gender and sex mixed up. “Sex is the parts you were assigned, but gender is who you identify as in your brain, and a lot of people don’t really understand that.”

As one of the senior members of the teen center, Cummings said she mentors younger kids who may be shy or hesitant to join group activities.

“These kids come in, and they’re so scared and naive and don’t want to talk to anybody. That’s kind of who I was when I first started coming. I didn’t talk much,” she said, adding she feared that nobody liked her. She now tries to act as a friend and get new kids involved in activities to show them the teen center is not as scary as it may seem. “I try to act like someone I would look up to as a 13-year-old,” she said.

Watching Cummings evolve over the last three years has been impressive, Conner said, because he remembers her coming in and having the same look of fear and shyness as the 13-year-olds she now mentors. “It’s great to see her take ownership and pride and lead the space in such a positive direction,” he said.

Cummings expressed modesty about the statewide recognition. “It was a shocker when I won because I thought that some of the other candidates may have had better stories than mine. But it’s not really about stories, it’s sort of about who you are and who you embody, and I guess that’s something that they really liked.”

She loves writing, poetry in particular, and recently attended a three-day Champlain College writing program.

Conner said he is not sure what the future holds for Cummings but is sure that whatever it is, it will be bright. “I think Rachael is someone that goes by the beat of her own drum, and I see that as a really positive thing,” he said.

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Crafty Teens!

As spring finally melts away the layers of cold winter routines, it seems a creative energy has emerged. Today, I’d like to share some teen center masterpieces!

Colorful Dyed Eggs!

A few weeks ago, we set up an egg-dying station, and the results were some colorful creations that would impress the Easter Bunny himself! We used tape, star stickers, and crayons to create layered effects, textures, and cool designs and text! Check ’em out!

BTC Eggs

Even though the BTC smelled like egg for a week, it was totally worth it.

GIANT Origami

What can you do with a giant roll of paper? Why, make giant origami, of course! Meet the Crane family (I like to call little one “Ben”):

Cranes

We found that folding giant paper is significantly more difficult than your standard 8.5×11 inch sheet, but produces a significantly more awesome result. So, if you happen to spot a giant paper airplane soaring across the Montpelier sky, don’t worry – you’re not seeing things!  The Basement Teen Center is just at it again.

 Screen Printing at the NTC!

Yesterday, the BTC had the pleasure of taking a field trip to visit our dear friends at the Northfield Teen Center. While some teens were drawn to their foosball table and basketball hoop, others took the opportunity to create their very own designs to print onto shirts! The designs ranged from goofy quotes (such as, “When life gives you lemons, keep them, because, hey, free lemons.”) to birds, to faces – including an awesome caricature of Northfield Teen Center director, James! As you can see, the operation took place on the NTC ping pong table (apologies for the light bleaching out some of the images).

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We’ll have six new, original t-shirts to remember a fantastic day at the NTC! Thanks all everyone at the NTC for hosting us!

YAY for YOY! Rachael is Vermont’s new Youth of the Year!

Big news at the BTC this past week! Thursday was the Youth of the Year competition – a culmination of a lot of hard work from our nominee, Rachael, and BTC staff alike. We started the day by meeting the four other contestants on a tour of the Statehouse. Though I found it interesting, I think the five youths had something else on their minds: the interview and speech they’d have to deliver in a few short hours – it would be the last chance they’d have to shine before the envelope was sealed with the judges’ decision.

We had a few hours of downtime before the interview, which, of course, were spent hanging out at the BTC and showing off some of our favorite games, such as MUNO and Mystery Ball, to some of our new friends from other Boys & Girls Clubs. In the afternoon, Rachael and I headed over for her interview – she was the last to go. As we waited, Rachael stayed cool as a cucumber, and even got a few laughs out of the women monitoring the time. Then, it was Rachael’s turn. She calmly followed them in, and I waited the 15 minutes until her interview was over. She emerged with a smile and a high five.

At that point, those judges had read three essays from Rachael, three letters of recommendation, seen her school transcript, read through her answers to the application questions, interviewed her, and listened to her deliver a three minute speech. The same was true for each contestant, so we knew the only thing we could do was go back to the BTC and wait.

At 5:30pm we headed back to the Statehouse for the Youth of the Year dinner. We found a nice little nook for Rachael’s family, her favorite teacher, former BTC AmeriCorps member, Texas Al, and Rachael, Nick, and I to sit. We listened to Governor Shumlin deliver a speech, but his could not even compare to the speeches that followed. We had the honor of hearing each of the Youth of the Year candidates’ speeches. Their stories were incredible. Each of those young people has struggled through adversity – from being born under 2 pounds, to bullying, to growing up in a refugee camp – and each of those young people has emerged as a leader in their communities.

At that point, it really felt like it could be anyone’s game. We all waited in silence anticipation when we heard the classic line, “The envelope please!” He struggled for a moment to rip open the envelope, but then pulled out a piece of paper and read, “The winner of the 2015 Youth of the Year is…Rachael Cummings!”

Everything after that was a blur of proud tears, joyous hugs, and pictures, in the words of Rachael, “to remind [her] that [she is] able go out and accomplish things [she] wouldn’t have thought [she’d] be able to do.”

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Ray Ray, we couldn’t be more proud! Congratulations!