2017 YOY Recap

Paula Banda addressing a packed house at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County Youth of the Year Dinner. Photo by Sarah Arquitt.

Paula Banda, of Sedro-Woolley, announced as the 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County Youth of the Year

Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, Good Character & Citizenship: these are the priority outcomes Boys & Girls Clubs work to develop in all Club members. Perhaps the single best manifestation of these results is experienced during Youth of the Year.

Each year in January, the Skagit community comes together to celebrate youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County Youth of the Year Dinner, which was recently held on January 25th at Eaglemont Golf Course in Mount Vernon. The room was packed full with nearly 180 in attendance. 

The Youth of the Year program, started in 1947, begins at the Club level with preparation in the fall that results in one Club member being selected at their Clubhouse Dinner with Friends, held in November. From there, the Club Youth of the Year’s continue honing their skills through repetition, workshops, and a retreat, held jointly with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties. 

Club members ages 14-18 are eligible to participate in the program that equips youth with important real world skills including resume preparation, essay composition, and speech development. They learn interview techniques, how to network in a business setting, plan appropriately to reach goals, and most of all, how to serve as a model leader to their peers.

For 2016, representing Skagit County, were three Clubhouse Youth of the Year candidates, and four runners-up: Erin Huffstodt (Anacortes YOY), Geoffrey Hamilton (Anacortes YOY Runner-Up), Charles Baker (La Conner YOY), Elijah Porter (La Conner YOY Runner-Up), Paula Banda(Sedro-Woolley YOY), Charlie Branther-Waxham(Sedro-Woolley YOY Runner-up), & Kindred Marden(Sedro-Woolley YOY Runner-up). Each presented their speeches to an attentive crowd. Attendees also heard from Jazzelle Elias, 2016 Youth of the Year, as well as Bobby Castro, the 2014 Youth of the Year. Both have served as mentors this last year to those in the program. Ultimately, it was Paula Banda who was announced as the 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County Youth of the Year.

Paula Banda is an 8th grader attending Cascade Middle School in Sedro-Woolley. While rare to have someone so young selected, Paula meets all the qualification requirements, and made a significant impression on the judges. To determine a winner, seven judges received advance materials that include biographical information, essays, and supporting letters and other materials. A rubric is provided for the entire cycle, and the judges come together to hear speeches, and interview all the candidates, the day before our Youth of the Year Dinner. Because of the quality of our Club members participating, for the second year in a row, just two points separated winner and runner-up.

Paula holds the SMART Girls program high in her list of reasons for success. “SMART Girls is the program that has probably had the biggest impact on making me into who I am today. I learned a lot of lessons in SMART Girls. It taught me to talk to someone when I need to and not just keep my emotions bottled up. It is also where I learned how important it is to be respectful and to be confident,” said Paula.

It’s that very confidence that is leading Paula to work toward a career as a lawyer. She has plans to attend Skagit Valley College for Running Start before setting sights on her aspirational goal, Harvard University. 

From here Paula will continue on to the State event in March, with the possibility of continuing on to the Regional & National competitions. At the state event, the day will begin with a breakfast at the Governor’s Mansion, honoring each county’s Youth of the Year representative, where they will be joined by legislative representatives from all over the state. While there, the Governor’s Community Service Scholarship award is presented, and all youth are introduced officially. The Washington State Youth of the Year representative will be announced at the dinner that evening.

To learn more about the Youth of the Year program, or be placed into consideration as a judge for 2018, please contact CEO Ron McHenry at rmchenry@skagitclubs.org or 360-419-3723, x3.

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