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.
| April 25,2015
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.