youth of the year
BGCA’s premier recognition program for Club members
Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is BGCA’s premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability. The program is most effective when used as a year-round tool for fostering young people’s character, personal growth and leadership qualities.
Local Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month winners and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.
2021 Youth of the Year: Alex Peters
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is excited to announce Alex Peters as the 2021-2022 Youth of the Year. Alex is a senior at Schenectady High School and has been attending the Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club since first playing in the mini-basketball league as a 4-year-old. Alex is an exemplary student-athlete at Schenectady High School, who strives to be better at everything he does. He is a wonderful advocate for others and cares deeply about their success, whether on the basketball court, baseball field or in any aspect of their lives. His volunteerism is indicative of this, where he has amassed over 627 hours in just the last four years at the Rotterdam Clubhouse, helping young people reach for their full potential.
As a student athlete, Alex is a star on the baseball team at Schenectady High School. However, where Alex is truly a star is in the classroom holding a 3.2 grade point average. As a result of his hard work on the field and in the classroom, he is a wonderful role model for not only his friends and family, but for hundreds of Boys & Girls Club kids that he is contact with several times a week. His dedication to classwork, athletics and volunteerism is remarkable, which has led to college scholarship offers as well earning him the very prestigious Mary Ann Hogan Scholarship Award. This honor is given only to Boys & Girls Club youth who personify the compassion, courage, and love for others as did Mrs. Hogan, who fought a long battle against cancer while maintaining a remarkably positive and “bubbly” outlook, inspiring everyone around her.
Alex credits the Boys & Girls Club with always being there for him as a child. He calls the club his “home away from home” and the enormous number of hours spent volunteering clearly demonstrates his commitment to helping others become successful. He says that the club taught him how to honor commitments, show up on time, and be there to care for people other himself. Alex stated, “My time at the club is where my values truly developed. It is where I learned a lot about who I am and who I wanted to be.”
The Boys & Girls Club is proud to announce that Alex will be attending Siena College in the fall where he will be majoring in Sports Management. It is certainly no surprise that he has selected a field where it will be his career to help people be the best that they can be. We are so thankful to have Alex in our Boys & Girls Club family.
2021 Youth of the Year: Gyonni Winter
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Gyonni Winter, the 2020-2021 Youth of the Year. Gyonni is a senior at Schenectady High School and has been a member of the Steinmetz Boys & Girls Club since she was seven-years old. Two words that best describe Gyonni are charismatic and hard working. While spending over 75 hours volunteering at the Club and in her community in 2020, Gyonni was also able to achieve stellar grades, serve as captain of the Varsity soccer team, Vice President of the senior class and a leader of Teen Advocacy Group (TAG), a group giving students of color a voice in school decisions.
Gyonni is part of the accelerated International Baccalaureate Program at Schenectady High School taking the most difficult courses offered to students. She has a 3.5 average and ranks 68th in a class of 642 students.
At the Steinmetz Boys & Girls Club, Gyonni serves as a Junior Staff member volunteer who works to help younger members with homework, develop their computer skills and leads them through various art projects. At any special event or family night you could find Gyonni in the kitchen preparing and serving meals. Additionally, she was an active member of the very important Real Talk program before the program ended in 2020. Real Talk was a program of the Alliance of Positive Health for high-risk teens. This youth-led and youth-driven prevention program was designed to have a positive impact on reducing or eliminating potential risky behaviors teens may engage in.
The Boys & Girls Club has helped Gyonni to find her voice and develop into a strong leader and role model for so many children. Over the years, the Club is where she has learned the importance of giving back to her community. One of her favorite projects was working on the design and building of a new playground at the Steinmetz community.
Gyonni plans to attend Buffalo University in the fall where she will major in Marketing and Business. With her pure drive and determination, it is safe to say we expect great things from Gyonni Winter.
2020 Youth of the Year: Kyla Wiggins
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to announce Kyla Wiggins, the 2020 Youth of the Year. Kyla will be entering her junior year in the fall at Schenectady High School. Her volunteerism, participation and leadership over the years as a club member, junior staff member and in the community have led her to this prestigious honor.
Kyla’s journey with the Boys & Girls Club began as a six year-old when she attended Camp Lovejoy and was a member of the Mont Pleasant Clubhouse. Kyla’s leadership roles and volunteerism at the Boys & Girls Club are unparalleled. At the Mont Pleasant Boys & Girls Club, she began working in the Jr Staff program at the age of 12. She volunteered in about every position in the clubhouse. Kyla volunteered in the kitchen and created a cooking show aired on the Boys & Girls Clubs Facebook page. She was president of the Torch Club in 2017 and in 2018 she was named Jr. Youth of the Year. In 2018 and 2019 Kyla worked at the Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club through the Schenectady Job Training Agency.
Kyla now attends and volunteers at the Adeline Wright Graham Boys & Girls Club. She is a member of the Keystone Club and works in the kitchen. She took charge of the serving line and runs it every night with another volunteer. She also helps with cleaning throughout the entire teen center. Kyla has really
taken ownership in the new clubhouse. Kyla is a wonderful role model to younger members who see her every day and all the work she does.
Academically, Kyla is in the rigorous Smart Transfer program through SUNY Schenectady. Kyla will graduate High School with her Associates Degree in Criminal Justice. She will be well on her way to her future career in either forensics or as a police detective. Kyla is a dedicated and driven young woman with an incredible attitude and personality. We are truly lucky that she is a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady.
2019 Youth of the Year: Thalia Maynor
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Thalia Maynor, the 2018-2019 Youth of the Year. Thalia is a junior at Schenectady High School and has been a member of the Steinmetz Boys & Girls Club since she was six-years old. Two words that best describe Thalia are dedication and hard working. While spending over 100 hours volunteering at the Club and in her community in 2018, Thalia was also able to achieve stellar grades and play two high school sports.
Thalia is part of the accelerated International Baccalaureate Program at Schenectady High School taking the most difficult courses offered to students. She has a 3.2 average and ranks 58th in a class of 493 students. She also excels in athletics playing varsity and travel team Volleyball and Track & Field. Even with her busy school schedule, Thalia still attends the Club regularly.
At the Steinmetz Boys & Girls Club, Thalia serves as a Junior Staff member volunteer who works to help younger members with homework, develop their computer skills and leads them through various art projects. Additionally, she is an active member of the very important Real Talk program. Real Talk is a program of the Alliance of Positive Health for high-risk teens. This youth-led and youth-driven prevention program is designed to have a positive impact on reducing or eliminating potential risky behaviors teens may engage in.
The Boys & Girls Club has helped Thalia to find her voice and develop into a strong leader and role model for so many children. Over the years, the Club is where she has learned the importance of
giving back to her community. She has been a staunch volunteer at Global Youth Service Day (since 2011), World AIDS Day (since 2015) and has been involved in several community service projects with her volleyball team and Baccalaureate Program in school.
Thalia also credits the Club for helping her map out her future career path. While working with an engineer from RPI who was volunteering in the Club’s STEM initiative, Thalia discovered the career she will be pursuing in the future. Her current goals are to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology and study Petroleum Engineering- the career she learned about during her time in the STEM program at the Club! With her pure drive and determination, it is safe to say we expect great things from Thalia Maynor.
2018 Youth of the Year: Foster Kucij
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Foster Kucij, the 2017-2018 Youth of the Year. Foster is a senior at Schenectady High School and has been a long-time member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady attending various clubhouses and Camp Lovejoy since age 6. He is currently a member of the Steinmetz Homes Boys & Girls Club site and has worked at Camp Lovejoy for the past four years. Foster is a dedicated volunteer spending hundreds of hours on club and community service for several years. He is an outstanding peer leader and advocate for Schenectady’s youth.
Foster is a regular volunteer at the Steinmetz Boys & Girls Club helping younger members in the computer room and leading activities. Every week Foster helps to facilitate group discussions educating teen members on harm and risk reduction with their sexual health and everyday life. He also helps to clean up the club after other members have left. When he has free time, Foster also volunteers at the Yates Village Clubhouse. At Camp Lovejoy Foster is a Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor. He always arrives early before his shift to check on the pool and stays after his shift to help clean up Camp.
As a passionate advocate, educator and peer leader, Foster works with Planned Parenthood and Real Talk to empower and engage Schenectady’s youth to make positive life-style choices. He has been a very active member of Real Talk, a program of the Alliance for Positive Health for high-risk teens. This is a youth led and youth driven prevention program designed to have a positive impact on risky behavior. Foster also works as a Youth Health Educator for Planned Parenthood, plays soccer and stays involved in school events.
In his early teens, Foster began to struggle with anxiety. Rather than let this barrier define him, Foster has chosen to take a holistic approach to address this situation. He has grown to be an exceptional leader to his peers, leads by example and is a wonderful Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady. Foster hopes to one day become the Head Chef in a popular kitchen!
2017 Youth of the Year: Trevor Luciani
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Trevor Luciani, the 2016-2017 Youth of the Year. Trevor is a junior at Schenectady High School and has been a long-time member of the Rotterdam Clubhouse. He is currently a member of the 21st Century Leaning Center Schenectady High School Boys & Girls Club site. His volunteerism and incredible devotion to the young people who he has worked with over the years both as a club member and a staff member have catapulted him to this prestigious honor.
Trevor’s journey with the Boys & Girls Club began as a 6 year-old when he began swimming lessons at the Rotterdam Clubhouse. Over the next 10 years he managed to learn how to swim, take part in sports leagues, volunteer, referee dozens of games for smaller children and learn the true meaning of compassion. He admits and is still thankful that the sports leagues at the club enabled him to better “connect” with his father with whom he did not have a lot in common with as a child. His father also became a wonderful volunteer coach at the club for several years. Having himself volunteered hundreds of hours at the club over the years, Trevor was selected to work as a staff person at the 21st Century Learning Center Boys & Girls Club located at Van Corlaer Elementary School in Schenectady. It was there that he decided that he would like to work with children in some capacity as an adult. He learned so much about the needs of the young people and desperately wanted to help them succeed.
With the kids at Van Corlaer in mind, he and a small group of his friends created a club at school entitled A Domestic Environment for Civil Awareness (ADECA) in which they work to help alleviate suffering and improve the situations for others. Trevor, with his ADECA group, ran a Holiday Benefit Concert this past winter at the high school bringing in musical acts to perform and raise money for five families he worked with at Van Corlaer Elementary School. The concert raised over $1,300 for the young people in need! His work as one of the founders of ADECA was in addition to Trevor’s volunteer work as a tutor and as role model with a project entitled Campaign Smile where he spoke in assemblies to elementary children about self-esteem and anti-bullying. The anti-bullying discussions hit close to his heart as he was a victim of bullying in middle school and is vigilant about helping kids “be themselves” without fear.
Trevor now aspires to be a Family Court lawyer thanks to his experiences at the Boys & Girls Club and a work experience at the Department of Social Services through the Schenectady County Summer Youth Employment Program. He is a National Honor Society member and has a 3.3 GPA. Trevor says today, “The Boys & Girls Club helped set a wonderful leadership path to follow. My experiences at the club have taught me who I want to be.”