State Youth of the Year selected

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Gov. Roy Cooper speaks Saturday during the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Carolina Youth of the Year Awards Luncheon at the Rocky Mount Event Center.


Staff Writer

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Gov. Roy Cooper, a native son of Nash County, was the keynote speaker Saturday at the 2019 North Carolina Youth of the Year Awards Luncheon hosted by the Boys & Girls Clubs at the Rocky Mount Event Center

This was Cooper’s first visit to the event center since its completion.

“It is clearly an amazing facility,” Cooper said after the event. “To see all the basketball games that are being held here today is spectacular, and I am glad I got a chance to come here and see it. And the food was fantastic.”

In his keynote speech, Cooper shared his appreciation for the local Boys & Girls Clubs in general and spoke glowingly of the local Boys & Girls Clubs organization.

“I am so proud of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region,” Cooper said. “You have a great record of helping kids to graduation, helping them to stay out of trouble and doing good things. I thought so much of this club while I was Attorney General that I helped bring a program to North Carolina called Badges for Baseball. It brought law enforcement officers into the Boys & Girls Clubs to play sports with them.”

After the luncheon, nine state finalists for the Youth of the Year Award each shared an inspiring speech about how their own Boys & Girls Club organizations impacted their lives in a positive way.

Before the awards ceremony, each of the finalists had already presented their speech before a panel of local judges. The judges also interviewed each finalist and examined a portfolio of information about them before making a decision concerning the state level Youth of the Year Award.

Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, was among the seven judges for this year’s award.

“This was a wonderful experience, but it was a tough decision,” Bridges said. “It is exciting seeing how these students are thriving. It gave me a new insight into what the Boys & Girls Clubs are accomplishing.”

Shelton Jefferies, superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, also was a judge at the competition. Jefferies said he believes in the work of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“This organization is important because it offers a system of support — a family, if you will — for students who need an encouraging word and a community to believe in them,” Jefferies said.

At the end of the awards ceremony, the winners were announced. Octavious Smith, of the USAG Fort Bragg CVS Services, won the title of the state Military Youth of the Year. The honor comes with a $5,000 college scholarship and a chance to advance to the regional competition in Atlanta.

Venus Rogers, of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plains, won the title of North Carolina Youth of the Year for the second year in a row. She won $10,000 in scholarship money to add to the $10,000 she won in last year’s competition. She also will advance to the regional competition in Atlanta. The winner of that round will advance to a national competition later in the year. 

Ahlam Azizbi of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County won the title of first runner-up. 

Nia Ewuell, winner of the Youth of the Year competition for the Tar River Region, was one of eight state finalists for the traditional award who spoke on Saturday. However, she did not advance in this year’s competition.