Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor is honored to announce Brandy Reed as the 2016 Benton Harbor Youth of the Year and recipient of the Virginia Ellen Abbott-Maxwell Scholarship. Brandy was recognized, along with her fellow four finalists, at an event held at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center on February 27th. Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’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.
Local community members supported the Youth of the Year celebration. The difficult selection decision fell upon Dr. Shelly Walker, Superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools, and Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad as they got to know each of the finalists on a personal level with interviews and public speeches.
Brandy will now advance to the Michigan Youth of the Year state competition. State winners each receive a $5,000 scholarship and advance to regional competitions. Regional winners receive an additional $10,000 college scholarship, renewable for four years up to $40,000. Six youth, including five regional winners and a military winner, advance to the National Youth of the Year competition for a chance at an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable up to $100,000 for four years. The National Youth of the Year represents all Boys & Girls Club youth.
“Every member of the Boys & Girls Club has their own special reason why they became members, we all bring something unique to the Club and take away an even greater experience,” said Brandy. She, like so many others, has been changed forever by her Club Experience. In an area where being positive can be a struggle, Brandy learned how to be productive and achieve her goals to be a future leader. “The Club was investing in me when no one else was,” she said.
The Club supported Brandy during struggles in her life and helped her develop vital life skills. Today, she describes the traits of her personal brand as perseverance, optimism and humility. Brandy knows that others look to her as a leader. In roles as student body president, homecoming queen, and a finalist for Miss Benton Harbor, Brandy has her mind set on knocking down any barriers to her ultimate success. “Why should I stop at ‘great’ when I could be ‘legendary’?” the teen asks.
Brandy hopes to encourage more kids to become Club members, highlighting the need for healthy and safe alternative after-school activities. “The Boys & Girls Club cares so much about our future that they take extra time out to prepare us and make sure we excel in everything we do,” said Brandy. “My experience in the Club has been nothing short of amazing.”