Imani Lee, a junior at Dream Academy, was named the 2017 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor in a ceremony held at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center on Saturday, February 18, 2017.
Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs’ premier recognition program for members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability.
“Sometimes you have to stop out of your comfort zone completely to realize who you are,” said Lee, who credits the Club with helping her find her voice. “When I first came to the Club, I was very shy and didn’t really talk to anyone.”
“Becoming a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs helped me face one of my biggest fears, which was speaking in front of large crowds,” said Lee. “It is because of the Boys & Girls Clubs that I am not afraid to face my fears anymore.”
Lee originally joined the Club in 2014 to participate in the Teen Ambassadors program, a college and career readiness program partnership with the Benton Harbor Promise Foundation and the First Tee of Benton Harbor. She currently maintains a 4.0 grade point average.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor’s vision is to develop and inspire the next generation of leaders. Participants in the Youth of the Year Leadership Development program build character, create a personal brand, and learn how to set and achieve personal goals. Lee’s personal goal is to help build confidence in other youth. “I want all youth to know that they have the power to change their circumstances,” said Lee.
“We all will face challenges and hardships in our lives, how you address the challenges is up to you. Stay in school, stay focused, and stay inspired because great is coming and it starts at the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Lee says referring to the Club’s motto “Great Futures start here.”