It ended the way it started – with a thank you.

“Thank you, Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club for being my second home. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy my childhood by giving me a life separate from gangs, gun violence, and drugs,” said the Pedersen-McCormick Youth of the Year finalist Tyson in his speech at the 2023 Youth of the Year Competition and Dinner.

And later that evening, after he was named Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago 2023 Youth of the Year, Tyson had a few more people he wanted to thank.

“I would like to thank my fellow competitors because we’re all winners … so thank you,” Tyson said in his winning speech.

It was the perfect end to a perfect evening at Navy Pier’s Aon Ballroom, where five outstanding Club members took the stage to tell their personal stories during BGCC’s pinnacle local honor, rewarding leadership, service and academic standing.

Joining Tyson on stage was Andrea (True Value Club), Jaala (Ford Heights Club), Jelani (Linda and Bill Gantz Club), and Youth of the Year runner-up Rachel (Louis L. Valentine Club).

The five finalists were chosen during a semi-final interview round in February by five judges. The semi-final round comprised of seven candidates – including Karla (CC’s Little Village Club) and Moné (James R. Jordan Club) – and then was narrowed down to the five finalists who took the stage on March 2 at Navy Pier.

“When I have [sad] feelings, I think of my Boys & Girls Clubs mentors – Mr. David, Ms. Katrice, Mr. George, and Mr. Sean, reminding me that I have the love and support of more than 200 Boys and Gils Club members that I grew up with at my side,” Tyson, a Club member for 11 years, said in his speech.

The other finalists’ speeches also discussed how the Club supported them, whether it was giving them a second home, helping them develop their voice, or giving them the confidence to be the leaders that they are in their Clubs and in their community.

All seven candidates were awarded with the Youth of the Year prize package. The package included contributions from all eight of Chicago’s sports teams, tickets to Skydeck Chicago and Six Flags, a gift card to retail store Notre, and a Lenovo laptop courtesy of CDW. They also all received a $1,000 Craig Martin Scholarship. Additionally, Rachel, the runner-up, received a $5,000 scholarship.

As the Youth of the Year, Tyson received a $10,000 scholarship thanks to the McCartin Family Foundation, and two round-trip tickets courtesy of United Airlines.

Tyson, just a high school junior, has a bright future ahead of him, hoping to one day run track at the Olympics and study business to hopefully one day open his own technology firm.

“With patience, perseverance, resilience, I can travel the world, explore opportunities, and give back to the community that raised me,” Tyson said in his speech. “Thank you, Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club. Thank you.”

Watch the video above to learn what BGCC is all about.

Watch our finalists talk about what Youth of the Year means to them.

See Tyson, our 2023 Youth of the Year winner, on FOX 32 Chicago!

Watch our finalists talk about what their Club means to them.