Accepting failure is difficult.

For Ebonnye, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s (BGCC) Youth of the Year finalist from the Alcott Club, it is something she said she is continually working on during her speech at the 2024 Youth of the Year Competition and Dinner.

But for this one night in Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom, Ebonnye did not feel like she was failing as she was named the 2024 Youth of the Year.

“As a young Black girl with big dreams and aspirations, I know the reality is that Black people often have to work twice as hard to go half as far, so I do it all. I internalized the need to be perfect. I was going 90 miles an hour and I finally hit a wall.”

With the help of her Club, Ebonnye said she came to understand that self-worth is not defined by perfection and that every failure is an opportunity to learn more about yourself.

“Though Alcott Club may be small, its impact is monumental. As the first Youth of the Year for Alcott Club, I stand as a representation of that impact,” Ebonnye said during her speech. “I have a lot to unlearn about failure, but I’m learning that it makes us stronger and more resilient.”

Youth of the Year is BGCC’s signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders by recognizing the academic achievements and service of exceptional Club members, ages 14-18, and their outstanding character and leadership qualities.

Four other finalists, including Araceli (True Value Club), Aramis (Linda and Bill Gantz Club), Kanoa (Bartlett J. McCartin Club), who was named the runner-up, and Mathew (Pedersen-McCormick Club), joined Ebonnye on stage.

The finalists used their speeches to talk about the impact of their Club on their lives. Whether it helped them gain confidence, was a safe place for them during tough times, or helped them become a leader among their peers and community, it was clear that the Clubs and the mentors within them have had a life-changing effect.

“Thank you to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for creating spaces that make youth like me feel safe and seen. I couldn’t be more grateful for you all, thank you,” Ebonnye said.

All seven candidates were awarded the Youth of the Year prize package, which included a $1,000 Craig Martin Scholarship and contributions from all eight of Chicago’s sports teams, as well as tickets to NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race, Six Flags Great America, Navy Pier, Big Bus Tours, and City Experiences. They also received a Lenovo laptop courtesy of CDW.

In addition to those amazing experiences, the runner-up and winner received a $5,000 and $10,000 scholarship from the Frederick and Helen Nichols Fund at the Chicago Community Trust. The winner also received two round-trip tickets courtesy of United Airlines, the official airline of Youth of the Year.

Ebonnye has a bright future ahead of her and dreams of attending Howard University to major in actuarial science. Though she doesn’t graduate until next year, she keeps busy with several extracurricular activities, including Black Student Union Assembly Planning, Alcott Leadership Scholar Program, and Student Life and Events Committee – to name a few! All while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

“I’m learning to take care of myself,” Ebonnye said. “I’m learning that my value is not attached to numbers or titles, but the type of person I am, the values I hold and the dreams I am working towards.”

Support tomorrow's leaders today – donate below!

See Ebonnye's reaction after being named Youth of the Year!