Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula was the host this year for the annual statewide Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year competition and awards ceremony held at Kenai Catering’s banquet facility. With five of the finest youth in the State telling their stories it was Kenai’s Annika Oren who was chosen to represent Alaska at the regional Youth of the Year competition in California later this summer. “It feels really great, I didn’t anticipate actually winning but I’m super happy,” said an excited Annika after hearing Kenai Mayor Pat Porter announce the winner. “The other candidates were so great and we connected right away, it was like having a friend I had known for years,” she said in an interview at the ceremony. Annika aspires to become a pediatrician after 11 years of college and said her $5,000 award will go toward that end.
Being selected from three separate Boys & Girls Clubs for children of military personnel to represent Alaska as the Military Youth of the Year was MiKaila Alexander from Eielson Air Force Base. Both Alexander’s parents have served in the U.S. Air Force, “The nightmares when I was little that something would happen to my parents and they wouldn’t come home were terrifying, but the Boys & Girls clubs have always been a place to help me through my fears,” confided MiKaila. Alexander plans to become a child psychologist and study at UAF. MiKaila said the goal of wanting to invest their lives in helping others was a commonality that drew all the candidates together and she feels comes from their experience as Boys & Girls Club members.
The Youth of the Year Event has been Boys & Girls Clubs premier recognition program since 1947. The Youth of the Year program is a year round program recognizing and celebrating young people’s strong character and leadership qualities, academic achievements, service to Club and community, life goals, poise and public speaking ability. Each year, one young person from a Boys & Girls Club rises to the roll of National Youth of the Year, becoming an ambassador who speaks as the voice of Club youth everywhere and stands up to represent our nation’s young people. The $5,000 scholarship award is from national sponsors Disney, Toyota Financial, Taco Bell, and University of Phoenix, as well as a $1,500 tuition award from the University of Alaska College Savings Plan. As Alaska’s 2015 Youth of the Year, Annika will represent 10,000 Alaskan Club members at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Pacific Regional competition in July in California. MiKaila Alexander from Eielson High School will represent the military Clubs in Alaska as the Military State Youth of the Year.