Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Annika Oren, candidate for the Boys and Girl's club Youth of the Year award, at the Kenai Boys and Girl's Club office on Wednesday, Feb. 18.

Youth of the Year award chosen

Annika Oren’s family moved to Kenai from Fairbanks when she was in elementary school. Soon after arriving, Oren’s mother signed her up for the Kenai Boys and Girl’s club.

“I wasn’t getting along with the kids from my school and I was often getting bullied, so she (Oren’s mother) thought the Boys and Girl’s club would be a good way for me to get to know people and make new friends,” said Oren. “I was there for no more than 15 minutes when a girl came up to me and asked if I wanted to play with her. We’ve been friends for over seven and a half years now.”

Oren, presently a Junior at Kenai Central High School, has been involved in Boys and Girls Club activities ever since. She now participates as a staff member at the group’s Kenai clubhouse, where she works in the kitchen, helps kids with homework, and leads games in the gymnasium. Her story of joining the club is included in a speech she will give as a competitor for the Boy’s and Girl’s club State Youth of the Year award, which will be judged on Friday at the Kenai Teen Center.

Heather Schloeman, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girl’s Club, described the Youth of the Year award as “a character and leadership program, eligible for club members 14 to 18 years old.”

The Kenai Boys and Girl’s club held their local Youth of the Year event in late January. Of the three contestants, Oren was the winner, entitling her to compete in this weekend’s state event, in which she will be judged against a competitor from the Anchorage Boys and Girl’s Club. Judges will also select a second winner from members of Alaska’s three separate Boys and Girls clubs for children of military personnel, which will bring competitors from Fort Wainwright Army Base and Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases.

In addition to a speech, judges will evaluate the candidates through 15 minute interviews, three previously-submitted essays, and three letters of recommendation from teachers, Boys and Girl’s Club leaders, and acquaintances.

Oren wrote an essay on her “personal brand,” which she said was focused on athletics.

“I’ve always been active,” Oren said. “I love sports. I played hockey, baseball, softball, all that stuff.”

Oren said one of her concerns is that interest in sports has been “dimming recently.”

“I’ve heard things about people in school not wanting to join sports because it’s uncool,” Oren said. “I’ve heard a couple of kids say that. They don’t want to participate in PE, they don’t want to do the runs. They don’t want to play sports at all. They just want to sit down and play on their phones.”

Another problem that Oren dealt with in her essays is religious intolerance, based on her own experience of growing up Jewish.

“There are people who go to my school who don’t like the fact that I’m Jewish, and I’ve heard them say jokes behind my back, random things like that,” Oren said. “But it’s never anything too big. I don’t quite mind it. But if it’s something major, I have to say something to them.”

Following Friday’s competition, the Boys and Girl’s Club will hold an award dinner on Saturday at Kenai Catering. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship from the national Boy’s and Girl’s Club organization, The winner from the non-military clubs will also receive $1,500 from University of Alaska College Savings plan, and the runner-up will be awarded $1,000. In addition, the winner will move on to a regional competition in Anaheim, California, where they can qualify for the national Youth of the Year competition. Oren said she has plans for this prize money, should she win it.

“I want to go off to college and be a pediatrician, which is eleven years of schooling, so I’m definitely going to need the money,” Oren said. “I became a mentor here, and what I realized doing that is that I love to work with kids.”

Oren said she is considering many possible schools.

“The main one I want to go to is Washington University in Seattle, but it’s really expensive,” Oren said. “So if I go, I need to raise money for it. That’s why I’m doing this, and working here (at the Boys and Girl’s club) to earn money.”

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

Daily school district COVID-19 risk levels: Aug. 6, 2020

Risk levels are based on COVID cases reported in a community and determine how schools will operate.

Painted signs posted at the candlelight vigil held for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska, affirm love for Murnane and beseech her safe return. (Photo by Delcenia Cosman)
Virtual birthday party to be held for missing Homer woman

Anesha “Duffy” Murnane has been missing since Oct. 17, 2019.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Anchorage Pioneer Home reports COVID cases

State reports 4 cases on peninsula

Auctioneers Andy Kriner, left, and Rayne, Reynolds, right, celebrate a successful sale during the 4H Junior Market Livestock Auction at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019 at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
                                Auctioneers Andy Kriner, left, and Rayne, Reynolds, right, celebrate a successful sale during the 4H Junior Market Livestock Auction at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019 at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Livestock auction shifts to drive-in at rodeo grounds

4-H’ers come up with creative way to host Annual Junior Market Livestock Auction

Alaska State Troopers badge
4 bears killed after Hope mauling

The incident occurred July 29.

Daily school district COVID-19 risk levels: Aug. 5, 2020

Risk levels are based on COVID cases reported in a community and determine how schools will operate.

Friends remember pilot killed in crash

‘God didn’t make guys like Greg very often’

Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
School board seeks to use last year’s enrollment numbers

The loss of in-person enrollment will cause a significant loss of revenue for the school district.

The Wilderness Adventurer is shown Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, following its return to Juneau, Alaska, after one of its 36 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The first cruise of the stunted season was cut short, and all passengers were required to quarantine at a hotel while the 30 crew members were to quarantine on the ship. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
COVID result cuts short 1st Alaska cruise of stunted season

The cancelled trip by UnCruise Adventures was the first of the season.

Most Read