Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s (BGCC) signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders. The character and leadership program highlights exemplary teen members, recognizing their academic achievements, as well as their outstanding character and leadership qualities.

Recently, two former Youth of the Year candidates talked about their experience participating in the program and how Youth of the Year has impacted them following the competition.

During a Fireside Chat and Mixer hosted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Tyson, the 2023 Youth of the Year, and Jaala, a 2023 Youth of the Year finalist, joined a panel of youth discussing how the character and leadership program impacted their lives.

“Winning isn’t about the prize to me,” Tyson said. “It’s about using my platform to create something for others in my community. There’s so much power in empowering communities and making something of them with my voice.”

The event, held at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake, gave the BGCC members a chance to interact with attendees, as well as the Midwest Youth of the Year from Michigan, who also joined them on the panel.

When asked what the Youth of the Year competition meant to them, Jaala, who is only a sophomore, said: “I want to change what my community and Club represents, and I felt like I was able to do that being a part of Youth of the Year.”

The Club members also gave advice to future Youth of the Year candidates, which Tyson suggested to lead with empathy and passion.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago is currently in the midst of the 2024 Youth of the Year program, which culminates at Navy Pier on March 7 for the Competition and Dinner.

This year, seven candidates highlight the program, designed to cultivate the talents and abilities of the youth from elementary to high school. The candidates are currently in the rigorous part of the program, filling out their application, writing essays and beginning to write their speeches for the March 7th event that will feature five finalists.

“I had a wonderful time speaking about my experience being a Youth of the Year candidate and giving advice to the next generation of leaders,” Tyson said. “I can’t wait for the upcoming Youth of the Year Competition!”

To reserve your seat at this year’s competition, head to for more information.

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