The black limousine that the four Rocky Mount Youth of the Year candidates arrived in Tuesday night was just one part to the literal red carpet treatment the teens were given at a program in their honor at the Gateway Convention Center.
Candidates Rosella Campbell, J’Calvin King, Da’Jha’Rhea Baines and Israel King were greeted by a standing ovation from loved ones and community members who filled the room to celebrate the teens’ ability to overcome the circumstances life threw at them and emerge as role models within the Boys & Girls Clubs of Nash/Edgecombe Counties and the Twin Counties.
“We are here as a community, as a family to congratulate them, honor them and hopefully leave with the moral obligation of seeing organizations like this succeed,” club board member David Joyner said.
Kirk Dominick spoke during his keynote speech about his experience as a former Pitt County Youth of the Year and Boys & Girls Clubs employee. He said despite being born into a privileged lifestyle, his dad’s affair left his family torn apart and him with a grudge. A friend insisted he join the club and after much resistance, he came and was hooked – often being there from the moment school was out to until the lights of the club were turned off.
Dominick said he was stunned to be selected as the member of the month in March 1984.
“I got my 4x6 walnut plaque and to this day, it hangs beside my bed,” he said. “It saved my life and helped me from throwing a lot of potential away because it made me believe in myself.”
He said he was floored when he was chosen as the Youth of the Year for Pitt County, the Southeast Regional Youth of the Year and runner up for National Youth of the Year.
Each of the teenage candidates presented the speech they delivered in February to the 10 judges, speaking about overcoming poverty, gang involvement and abuse.
“My mother enrolled me in the Boys & Girls Clubs and I really didn’t want to go,” J’Calvin King, 16, said. “On my first day, little did I know what a huge impact it would have on my life. The Boys & Girls Clubs always gave me a sense of hope, a sense of belonging.”
Club Chief Professional Officer Ron Green announced Ty Shank, 12, as the club’s Junior Youth of the Year.
“In his essay, he said he cannot wait to see what his future holds in the Boys & Girls Club,” Green said, adding it brought tears to his eyes to read Shank’s essay. “He said he gets bullied at school, but at the club he feels safe from harm. ‘The people at the club like me for me.’”
After much applause from friends and family, Green named Baines, 15, the runner-up and Israel King, 18, as the winner.
Israel King’s church, youth group and family took pictures and shouted words of encouragement as he took the stage, winning a chance to compete in the state competition in April as well as a Samsung Tablet.
“I felt like with them here, I couldn’t lose because they were there to help me if I failed,” Israel King said. “It felt better to win, though, because I knew I was making them even more proud of me.”