|Jim Clark, president and CEO, BGCA and Kiana Knolland|
Kiana Knolland receives top honor including $60,000 scholarship after year-long competition
Since 1860, youth have walked into the hallowed doorways of what is now the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and nurtured the leadership skills needed to successfully navigate life and reach their fullest potential. The organization has been a staple and consistent community presence, providing programs that cater to the creativity, educational enhancement, fitness needs, social development and career aspirations of an estimated 4 million young people annually in the United States and on military installations around the globe.
On Wednesday, September 18 during a Congressional breakfast in Washington, DC hosted by Luke Russert, the organization announced its 2013-2014 “National Youth of the Year,” an honor bestowed on a BGCA youth who demonstrates exceptional character and accomplishments and is recognized for service to their Club, academic performance and contributions to their family.
The winner, Kiana Knolland of Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas in Wichita, KS, brings an impressive record of overcoming obstacles such as coming from a single-parent home and giving back to her local BGCA and community. She will serve as the official BGCA teen spokesperson, advocating for Boys & Girls Club youth and all of America’s young people during her year of service. Kiana will receive an $11,000 college scholarship from program sponsor Tupperware Brands and $50,000 towards her education from The Rick and Susan Goings Foundation.
A BGCA member since the age of 5, Knolland exuded poise and enthusiasm as she shared with BlackGivesBack (BGB) her course to becoming the National Youth of the Year and how BGCA helped her develop her path to success. The teen ambassador’s winning platform took her from local, state and regional competitions, and focused on two issues: ensuring all have access to a quality education (during her sophomore year, she landed a full scholarship to a local private school through her own initiative) and girl empowerment (she credits the BGCA’s “Smart Girls” program for helping to build her confidence).
She also shared with BGB that BGCA has provided her with the skills to interact and not to be afraid to network, the importance of giving back and serving the community, and that academic success is a number one priority.
A Howard University freshman majoring in public relations with a minor in political science, Kiana has aspirations on becoming a federal prosecutor, and is very involved in volunteering with organizations such as Pure & Simple Lifestyle Project, Kansas African American Museum, NAACP and the Government & Legislative Affairs Committee of the Wichita Mayor’s Youth Council.
“I’m so excited to be National Youth of the Year. I look forward to being the voice of Boys & Girls Club kids across the country, sharing my story and representing an organization that has had such a tremendous impact on who I am,” shared Kiana.
The remaining 2013 Youth of the Year finalists are: Martaluz Olang from Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (Conn.); Jesse Friedman from Boys & Girls Clubs of South Oakland County (Mich.); Yossymar Rojas from Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley (Calif.); Meeri Shin from Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland (Tenn.); and RaShaan Allen, Military Youth of the Year from Devers Youth Center on Ft. Knox (Ky.).
Celebrity ambassadors and BGCA alumni in attendance at the breakfast included Misty Copeland, the graceful African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre (an upcoming feature on BlackGivesBack) and BGCA national Youth of the Year ambassador, snowboarder Shaun White, and 2012-2013 BGCA National Youth of the Year Trei Dudley. Later in the day, Kiana and her fellow finalists joined Misty Copeland and Shaun White for an exclusive meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
|National Youth of the Year Ambassador Misty Copeland (center) with BGCA Youth of the Year finalists Jesse Friedman, Martaluz "Martha" Olang, Yossymar Rojas, RaShaan Allen, Kiana Knolland and Meeri Shin|
About the Boys & Girls Club Program’s Youth of the Year Program
Founded in 1947, the Youth of the Year program sponsored by Tupperware Brands, recognizes outstanding young people for service to their Club and community, academic performance and contributions to their family. The highest honor a Boys & Girls Club youth can achieve, the National Youth of the Year receives $11,000 in college scholarships from program sponsor Tupperware Brands, plus a $50,000 scholarship from The Rick and Susan Goings Foundation, the personal foundation of Tupperware Brands CEO Rick Goings, who has been an active supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs for more 20 years, and his wife, Susan. The National Youth of the Year also received a new car from BGCA national partner Toyota. In addition, all six finalists received the first annual Shaun White Supply Co. (SWSC) Teen Leadership Award for their demonstrated achievement in academic performance, leadership and service. The award consisted of a $1,000 scholarship and a personalized Supply Co. package, including a skateboard, bike and scooter.
To learn more about the National Youth of the Year program and the finalists, visit www.greatfutures.org/YOY.
Story and photos by Stacey Trammel, BlackGivesBack contributor