What We Do

2015 Youth of the Year - Amari McGowan

Amari's Story

The Club has played a key part of the person I have become today.  I would say the Club has made me stronger, a better leader, and maybe I can even say Club has made me a hero to others.  The reason why I use the word "hero" is because I have a younger sister and other family members that also attend Club.  Some of the younger kids that attend Club look up to me as an older sister because they do not have any siblings at home.  They always come to me, asking for advice about school or home life.  They report the good news too, which I love to hear and see the smiles on their faces.  A lot of them encourage me to do better for them, my Club, myself, others, and my family.

Being a Club member for nine years, I can say Club is like a second home to me.  I lived with my mom being a single mother most of my life, so I see Club as my second family.  Club has been an influential part of my of my childhood growing up.  They have always been there when mom couldn't be.  I can relate to some of the kids at Club because some grew up with single parents in their household as well.  Dan, our Chief Professional Officer, has also been an amazing father figure to me at Club.  He is always there for help and advice when I need it and to lend a helping hand.

Even on my bad days, Club can make them my best days at the end of the day.  I have communicated my trials and difficulties at Club and in life at some point, but some how I always made a way through it all no matter how hard the trial or difficulty was.  The Club also made me think my way through different obstacles I have come across in life.

Since I have been a member for so long, I have practically participated in any program or activity my Club has offered.  I have been a Keystone Club member for four years and served as Vice President for two of those four years.  I also have participated in Club challenges where our Club has traveled to other Clubs and competed against them in fun activities.  Even though we never won a challenge, I still and will always be a good sport for myself and Club.  I really just like to participate in all of the different activities and help others out.

To me, the word “Club” means to “Be Great”.  That’s what I try to do.  I try to be great for myself and be great to others, just like the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.  The Club has helped me develop better social and communication skills, including expressing myself to others and caring about other people and their feelings.  Club has taught me to reach for my own dreams or goals and I just want people to do the same for themselves.  Without the Club, I don’t know where I would be today.  My Club is a part of my family and will be a part of my life forever.

Amari's Vision for America's Youth

My vision for America’s youth is just not an ordinary vision you have for five minutes, one where you  close your eyes and just dream about what you want to happen.  It may seem like you're really there at the moment but you're not.  My vision and dream is a lifetime vision.  A vision that can help people change and to not only do better for themselves, but for the world too.  My vision is for everyone to be equal and to know that they are not alone.  

When I say I want everyone to be equal, I'm not just talking about race.  There is a lot more inequality in this world then what people see on a daily basis. It can happen to anyone,  but some people don't like to show it, so it's hard to see. Other people may show it, but people still choose to ignore the fact that inequality is happening  all over the world.  Being from the big city of Chicago and moving to a small little town in Wisconsin full of white people with a handful of blacks opened my eyes to what racial inequality is.  Some accept you for who you are and some of them don’t, but through it all I find ways to deal with it.  Yeah I don't fit in with many, but they still treat me like I am one of theirs and no different.  Yeah there may be a few racial slurs from here and there, but I try not to act on them and get caught up in the negativity because two wrongs never make a right.

I think it is important to let people know how to ignore others and what they say and think of you.  Youth need to know how to forget and forgive and move forward in your life because holding grudges won't get you far.  Some of the Club staff in  my life told me that people are going to talk about you for the rest of your life and you're just going to have to know how to ignore the problem and move on from it.  A big reason for this is if you respond and react to every bad thing that someone does and says about you you're going to have a very difficult life while you are living.  Responding with negativity isn't always the way to solve an issue or problem.    

I can say it used to be hard for me to do this but once you keep trying and trying things will only get better for you.  If you are just one person who does this and others see what it leads to they are going to want to follow and do what you do and the world would be so much better.  I think the Club can help kids to do this by having programs or small groups to talk about inequality and then those kids can talk about it in their schools and out in the community.  Once the community learns it, they can teach another community and it may trend. It is important to let people know that inequality is a big part of life to many people.

It is important for people to talk out loud about inequality and not just ignore it and hope it goes away.  I think that Clubs across the country have to opportunity to let their youth who come from all different types of cultures share with one another what they are really truly about.  Giving youth a voice and the chance to share what is important to them is really what youth in America want.

Amari's Personal Brand

I would say that my personal brand is being a motivator.  It is important for me to help other youth to feel confident in themselves and to be who they want to be.  An adjective that describes me and my personal brand is inspirational.  I am really big on people knowing how to inspire themselves as young kids and as they grow into elder youth.  My main goal for being Youth of the Year is for people to be able to express themselves and to inspire them to be who they really are without being ashamed.

Another good adjective to describe my brand would be supportive.  I want to help people to be able to believe. Believe in themselves before anyone else.  I would tell them to be you and not what others think you should be and to believe that you can be anything you want to be and anything that you choose to be.  I want young youth to know that going down the right path is the good path to go down and you don't always have to do and follow what others tell you to do.  I want you to believe that they can be a leader and to do whatever makes them happy and comfortable with themselves. 

The third adjective that would describe my personal brand is creative.  I am really big on fashion and really into it.  Being a fashion designer would be one of my last choices to pick as a career to have in my life, but I know the influence that fashion has on youth.  It can give someone confidence when they like what they are wearing and it gives them the chance to express who they are without using words.  Fashion can bring different people together who may not normally hang out.  

Being Youth of the Year at my Boys & Girls Club has given me the chance to reach my goal to become the National Youth of the Year which would be a very honoring and wonderful experience to have.  I just want to get my message out to many kids and youth so they know that it is okay to be who you truly really are.  If no one is by your side, just know you will always have yourself by your side.  I would also want them to know that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.  My goal is to change many youth in America, but it will still touch my heart to know that I have changed just one person throughout this whole process because I know at least someone gets it and understands.