We are honored to announce Barden Taylor has been named the Youth of the Year by Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County. The Youth of the Year title is a prestigious honor bestowed upon an exemplary young person in recognition of leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to live a healthy lifestyle. Now in its 70th year, the Youth of the Year program honors our nation’s most awe-inspiring young people on their path to great futures and encourages all kids to lead, succeed and inspire. Braden will go on to vie for the Arkansas Youth of the Year title and a $5,000 college scholarship from Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Braden started coming to the Club when he was in sixth grade. He was very shy and would only talk to the staff. He spent most of his time picking up trash and helping in any way he could. He credits getting out of his shell to a special staff member, Mrs. Best. She saw him picking up trash one day and invited him into her classroom. Braden liked being in the classroom because it was away from the chaos outside the door and he would not be noticed. He still remembers that day as if it was yesterday. “I had only one single goal, to be Mrs. Best’s helper. This would guarantee me a job for the remainder of the day. I waited patiently and when I thought that Mrs. Best would be there I made my move. I quickly walked to the back room and looked in; the other helper was already there. Mrs. Best called me in the room anyway. I slowly walked in and sat at the chair she gestured at. This first day was critical in my world. Here is where it all started, the first hellos to other members, the first eye contact with kids bigger than me.”
Braden now works for the Club and continues to be an important piece of the Club puzzle. “I am privileged to say that I am friends with the mentors that I grew up with. Every lesson that I learned at the Club as a child I can now take and learn from. I take all that Mrs. Best taught me and now I am putting it into greater use than ever. I am planning on becoming a teacher, with my staff work at the club I will already have experience working with kids, young and older. I run a pool league where I teach the kids the best strategy of pool and a little physics on the side. I help in the classrooms that I grew up in; I play the games that I had with the kids that remind me of myself. All of this work that I am doing at the Boys and Girls Club is a job yes, but I believe that it is building me up. This job and what it is teaching me will follow me for the rest of my life. I go to work every single day ready to learn something new about someone or something. The children are my teachers; I am a student that they mold into a teacher.”
Braden exemplifies what a National Youth of the Year should look like today. He possesses the ability, desire, and commitment it takes to succeed in life and to make a difference in the lives of others. Through his leadership, character and service its evident there was no other choice for our Club. We are so proud of Braden and we know he will represent our Club and community
Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year recognition program is presented by Disney, who has supported the youth advocacy organization for more than 50 years, empowering young people to reach their full potential and providing youth with access to the tools they need to build the great futures they imagine. Toyota, the Signature Sponsor of Youth of the Year, is dedicated to inspiring the next generations of engineers, thinkers and leaders who will help drive the American economy. Additional support is provided by University of Phoenix, a committed partner who has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of America on many Academic Success initiatives, and the Taco Bell Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier partner for teen empowerment.
If Braden wins at the state competition, he will compete for the title of Southwest Region Youth of the Year and an additional $10,000 college scholarship, renewable for four years up to $40,000. Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C. in September 2017, to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year will receive an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable each year up to $100,000 and will have the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States in the White House.
For more information about the Youth of the Year program, visit www.youthoftheyear.org.