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