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.
Youth of the Year 2021
The Times Union featured our very own Redal Ram in an amazing news article!
BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SCHENECTADY YOY
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.”
2016 Youth of the Year: Joseph Casholle
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Joey Casholle, the 2015-2016 Youth of the Year. Joey is a sophomore at Schalmont High School and a member of the Rotterdam Clubhouse. His ability to overcome extreme difficulties as a young child and his determination to be great in life has catapulted him to this wonderful honor.
As a 10-year old, Joey was removed from his parents and placed in the foster care system. This unfortunate reality not only separated him from his parents, but also from his siblings, extended family and everything he knew as “home”. Never a boy who was in trouble, Joey began acting out and became a serious problem for teachers and most adults in his life as a reaction to being placed in several foster homes. Already suffering with a learning disability, his schooling became a much larger struggle as well. He admits to feeling angry and as a result of his unpredictable, often inappropriate behaviors, he was placed in a group home for youth with severe behavior problems. He now says that after a while, the only things he knew in life were punishment and those whom he had labeled as “mean people”. His life was spiraling out of control…and then it happened.
While in the group home, Joey reached out to an old friend, Mrs. Yodis, who was the Principal of an elementary school he had attended. He explains that she saw though his behaviors and recognized a sweet kid with a big heart who was simply responding to his very negative circumstances. Mrs. Yodis and her husband quickly applied to become certified foster parents and immediately took Joey into their home and signed him up for the Boys & Girls Club!
He has attended the club virtually every day since joining. In fact, he takes the school bus to the club every day after school when he is not practicing or competing in one of multiple sports (football, track and wrestling). Joey says the club has always been a place where he can feel good about himself, get his work done and be a leader to many of the younger club members.
As a result of his outstanding leadership, commitment to programs and as a responsible teen the club could count on, he was given a part-time position at the Summer Program at the Rotterdam Club (SPARC) as a 16 year-old. Joey worked half of the day for a salary and volunteered the rest because he felt he was needed by club staff and the kids. He is so proud that when he is out in the community, many younger kids from the club are so excited to see him…a far cry from when he was being sent from one foster home to another eventually landing in a group home at a time when no one was happy to see him.
Joey continues to work at the Boys & Girls Club today, has seen his grades continue to rise and is on track to graduate with a Regents Diploma. This would make him the first person in his immediate family to earn a High School Diploma. Joey has become a resilient voice for those who feel like they are in an inescapable situation. He has gone from the angry boy to a thoughtful young man who now sees the possibilities that life offers him…and his future family. He states, “I want my future children to be proud to have me as their father and never know what it is like to be without love, happiness and support. I will push my future children to be the best they can possibly be, loving them and supporting them through their entire journey”.
The Boys & Girls Club is proud to be part of Joey’s journey from a lost, angry little boy to a mature, compassionate, goal orientated adult.
2015 Youth of the Year: Shamere Pinn
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is proud to introduce Shamere Pinn, the 2014-2015 Youth of the Year. A senior at Schalmont High School and a member of the Rotterdam Clubhouse, he exemplifies what it means to be a member of the Boys & Girls Club.
During his 12 years as a member, the Club was able to help Shamere overcome challenges and personal barriers through connection to caring staff, providing programming opportunities and by giving him a respite from other difficult situations in his life. The Club has been an outlet for Shamere to be with friends, get his work done, volunteer and now work part-time for the organization. The Club is a place for Shamere to be himself as over the years he explored and participated in numerous programs and
Since he was six years old, he was always interested in helping around the Club and his community. He volunteered for several years during the Global Youth Service Day, volunteered as a game advisor for the annual Halloween Party at the Club and has been a huge contributor to helping the staff manage the youth and teen basketball leagues. Not only did Shamere volunteer at the Club, he was also the President of his local Moose Lodge Teen Club. The Teen Club is very well known in the community as it has
completed projects for children with disabilities, the Ronald McDonald House and for families of teens that have been lost to suicide.
Although Shamere was born with a learning disability, he has worked hard in school to be successful with a lot of support from the Club. He was a starter on his high school football team that also required him to be in solid academic standing. Shamere was named one of the best defensive high school football players in NYS and this past year helped lead his team to the state championship game.
As a football player, he is very interested in nutrition and being physically fit. Early on the Club helped him understand the importance of eating the right foods and making smart decisions that would keep him healthy. Shamere also works out regularly as he is preparing for a college football career. He does not drink, smoke or do drugs and refuses to be around other students that are involved in those activities.
Shamere will be attending Ithaca College in the fall of 2015 and plans to study Physical Therapy. His goal is to eventually earn his degree while playing college football. Before settling on Ithaca, he was actively recruited by several four-year colleges for both football and academics.
2014 Youth of the Year: Victoria Wise
Victoria has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady’s Rotterdam Unit for nine years. Having had to overcome many very challenging obstacles in her young life, Victoria is a prime example of what a Club can do for a youth AND what a youth can do for a Club. She contributes a great deal to the club through her volunteer work, participation in programs and as a role model to other members.
As a Junior Staff member Victoria has been a member of swim team for years and has helped many younger swimmers improve their strokes. She is involved in several Club programs including pottery, arts programs and Project Learn, to name a few. She is a peer leader continuously helping other members. Currently Victoria is playing a significant role in revitalizing teen programming, including an evening session of Power Hour (homework help), at her Clubhouse. She has volunteered 200 hours in the past year in spite of a rigorous volunteer babysitting schedule for foster children (two children under the age of 3) and a challenging school schedule. As a result of her remarkable efforts with other children and the quality of her character, the Rotterdam Unit hired Victoria as a part-time employee in January.
Although Victoria is always busy with her school work, sports teams, Club service, working to help pay her way through school and babysitting, she never fails to find time to help out in her community. She has worked on many community service projects including Toys for Tots Toy Drive, Global Youth Service Day, Thanksgiving Dinner, Music Ministry and serving as lead student coordinator for Concern for the Hungry Food Drive. Victoria participates annually in a Suicide Prevention Walk in honor of a fellow swim team member who died as a result of suicide.
Victoria is a strong student in spite of her demanding volunteer schedule. She has been accepted at The College of Saint Rose and is awaiting word from her first choice, Siena College. She will be majoring in Speech Pathology.