A lot can be said of 17- year old Yaqarah Letellier, Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club Club’s 2013 Youth of the Year. Focused, dedicated, hard-working are just a few words that come to mind when portraying this impressive young lady, but no descriptive is as powerful, or as meaningful, as the one that truly defines her - compassion.
Being named Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club the 2013 Youth of the Year is not what left an indelible mark on Yaqarah. It wasn’t the title, nor was it the recognition or all the special attention that comes with winning a coveted award. No, it was none of that. What did make Yaqarah’s experience remarkable? It was the meeting of her peers, Youth of the Year from other Clubs, who like her, prevailed and overcame hardship, and went on to represent their own Club as the most outstanding member of the year for their organization. For Yaqarah, who considers her own struggles minor bumps in the road, the Youth of the Year experience was about the kids she met and the adversities they faced in their lives.
Yaqarah had the opportunity to meet the winners from other Clubs when she recently traveled to Albany, NY with Teen Director, Antoinette Edmonston, to compete for the State Youth of the Year Title. Yaqarah connected with the other teens during a variety of activities planned for the outstanding winners including a boat ride along the Hudson River, a visit to a local Boys & Girls Club and the opportunity to meet state Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine and Senator Carl Marcellino, both of whom offered inspiring words to Yaqarah.
“I am so proud to have been selected as Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club’s 2013 Youth of the Year and to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet so many wonderful people,” said Yaqarah. The trip was an especially eye opening experience for Yaqarah, who was also the Club’s Louis M. Sanford Scholarship recipient.
“As I started to get acquainted with the youth from other Clubs, I realized how fortunate I am. I met kids with so many obstacles to overcome, from domestic violence and abuse situations to parents with drug addictions to disabilities and homelessness and yet, they had such great resumes. It was so uplifting to see how hard these kids worked and the perseverance and determination they had to succeed in spite of their circumstances. I was truly humbled by the whole experience,” said Yaqarah.
Yaqarah, no stranger to difficulties herself, added, “Even me, a person who’s family has had a brief brush with homelessness, can be grateful and appreciate how the experience had a profound effect on shaping the person I am today.” She also acknowledges the role the Boys & Girls Club played in her life. “My family's struggle to find a house alienated me from society but after joining the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club, I was able to reconcile my own insecurities. My involvement at the Club created and reinforced my belief in community. The Club was there for me and provided me with the tools necessary to become successful as well as being my home away from home.”
Home and family are very important to
Yaqarah. One of 13 children, Yaqarah is
the second person in her family to win the Club’s Youth of the Year recognition. Sister, Shannida Letellier, who won in 2009,
is extremely proud of her younger sister, saying “She is a hardworking,
dedicated person with an innate ability for English. Yaqarah is intelligent, a leader and a role
model. Having both of us win the Youth of the Year title is not only a
testament to the Club, the staff and the incredible programs but also the great
job our parents did as well.”
“Yaqarah is the prime example of what a leader is, not just in her home, school and community but also at the Club. She leads by example and she isn’t just a leader to our younger members but to her peers as well. She is a shining star in our organization,” said Antoinette Edmonston, who has worked closely with Yaqarah over the past years.
“We are so proud of Yaqarah and all she has accomplished over the years. She has worked incredibly hard to get where she is and I, along with the GCBGC board, staff, volunteers and Club members, wish her all the best as she goes onto college and pursues the career of her dreams,” said GCBGC Executive Director, Melissa Rhodes.
Yaqarah plans on pursuing a writing career and will be attending Rutgers University this fall.
The Youth of the Year is the premier recognition program for youth, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability. Through the program, local Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month winners and at the end of the school year, select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.
To learn more about the Youth of the Year program, contact Antoinette Edmonston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 516-671-8030 ext 107.