2017 Youth of the Year - Autumn Smet
Autumn Smet won Youth of the Year as she marked her second year at the Boys & Girls Club, and first as a staff member in the Teen Center's Snack Bar
Recently, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin sat down with Smet to discuss her time at club and her feelings about being named Youth of the Year.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: Why did you want to work at the club?
AUTUMN SMET: It was mainly the kids. I really enjoy them and they wanted me to work here. Being a junior, school is a priority and it can be hard to fit a job into my schedule. This works perfectly and my brothers come here, so I’m able to be with them. I’m very close to them and having worked with them since I was 8 gave me experience with kids that made this a great fit.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: Why did you decide to apply for Youth of the Year?
SMET: I applied because of the encouragement I got from the people at (the) club, especially the kids. They wanted me to and one day, the Teen Center Director, Dillion (Wiese) asked if I had applied yet. I hadn’t heard about it, so I asked him what it was. He told that the Youth of the Year represents Boys & Girls Club and that to apply, you had to be a good role model, have people look up to you for being a good person and that I would be perfect for it. When I told my mom, she said I had to sign up right away.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: How did you feel when you learned that you had been selected?
SMET: I was ecstatic, of course. The kids cheered when they announced that it was me and hearing that they wanted me to win made me really happy. The opinion of the kids means so much to me, and to hear that they respect me makes me feel good. I felt proud, too, because they had invited my parents and they were there to see me get it.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: What do you think made your application stand out from all the others?
SMET: I do a lot of volunteer work. I became a member of National Junior Honor Society in eighth grade at Sabish, and they gave us so many options for volunteer work. I volunteer with the Arc, St. Baldrick’s and at my church, Church of Peace, as a confirmation coach.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: What do you think you have learned from being a part of the club?
SMET: I’ve definitely learned patience, respect and to problem solve. Every day’s there’s a different problem. If there’s an argument or the PlayStation breaks or supper doesn’t go as planned, we need to improvise and work around it. Being able to do that has helped me learn how to treat certain situations and weigh them as important or not. It has helped at school and at home with my brothers. I know it will in the future when I got to college, hopefully at Marian (University), and at work, too.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: Do you have a favorite memory associated with the club?
SMET: Last year when I was member, I was Ping Pong Queen. I beat every kid and for the first few times, I beat every staff member. The staff worked on getting better and every day we would have a match.
USA TODAY-NETWORK – Wisconsin: What do you hope to achieve through the club in the future?
SMET: Right now, I want to bond more with the kids. I’m close with all the kids, but I want to get closer to the ones who don’t really talk to anyone and get them to open up more. I want to get them to speak how they feel and not hide.
USA TODAY NETWORK – Wisconsin: What do you think makes the club special?
SMET: It’s the closeness, respect and positivity. The kids have a high level of respect for staff, and that’s really cool. Every teen staff brings a positive vibe and the vibe makes the kids close to teen staff. The positivity of the staff is contagious. The kids are close to the staff and the staff are close to the kids. The staff treats everyone individually and tries to talk to them that way, too. We definitely want kids to feel safe and respected. We don’t want them to have to hide anything. It may be hard at home for them, or they may have a bad day, and we want them to have a happy place where they’re comfortable.