Community Gathers to Celebrate Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County Youth of the Year Award Ceremony

The message at the 2015 Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County Youth of the Year Recognition Program and Annual Campaign Kickoff was simple: it only takes one. It takes but one person to open a door that sets a child on a path to an amazing future.

Tonight, the clubs were able to take a moment to celebrate the lives of some of the amazing children enrolled in their programs and honor the Porter County Youth of the Year.

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Eric Allison, a student at Chesterton High School, Sanja Kirova, a student at Willowcreek Middle School, Vincente Benavidez, a student at Portage High School, and Taija Jackson Jackson, a student at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, all were recently named their individual club's Youth of the Year. Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive, so the students deserve incredible amounts of credit.

As people from all over the community gathered in the Valparaiso University Center for the Arts to enjoy a delicious dinner and social event, the four candidates arrived by limousines, provided by Black Label Limos of NWI, and waited in anticipation to hear who would be named the 2015 Youth of the Year for all of Porter County. The 2014 winner, Ebone' Ivory, could not have been more enthused to hand off her title to one of the four amazing individuals selected.

"It's a great honor, especially since this is the first time we've done a reception and recognition ceremony like this. I'm really excited to be a part of this and even more excited to hear the candidates' speeches and stories,” she explained. “This Youth of the Year program had a tremendous impact on me and my life, and has totally changed me as a person, so I can't wait to see how it's going to change and affect them."

During an hour of cocktails, conversation, and overall camaraderie, several guests were able to reflect together on the good the Boys & Girls Club has done in their own lives over the years. Ryan Smiley, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, was also a participant in the Boys & Girls Club as a child and spoke highly of his experiences with the program.

"I became involved originally as a kid when I came to the Valpo Club to play basketball, which was a great experience growing up! I never thought I would come to serve this role in the organization, but after working with non-profits over the last twelve years, I really came to appreciate the needs of the community,” said Smiley. “Children are very near and dear to my heart, and I think it was fate that brought me back home and provided this wonderful opportunity to me. I couldn't be happier; we have an incredible organization, wonderful supporters, and a lot of kids that need our help.”

As the attendants and candidates made their way to the theatre to hear the candidates' speeches and find out the winner, there was noticeable electricity in the crowd. After much anticipation, the moment finally arrived, and Sanja Kirova was announced as the winner! She will now move on to the state level competition, and couldn't be more thrilled.

"The most exciting part of this is representing our very own members, they have been incredible!” she exclaimed. “I'm so glad that I've been chosen to represent them, and I know that the Boys & Girls Club has already impacted their lives in many ways and has changed their futures for the better."

Huge congratulations are offered to Sanja, as well as the other three amazing candidates this evening. These are the students who are not only the future leaders of our community, but who also are the motivators, inspirers, and activists of the present.

This event was sponsored by Ground Specialists and Computer Services, Inc.