Page 16 - South Mississippi Living - December, 2022
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Named Youth of the Year
story Cherie Ward
photos courtesy of
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast
Blessed, grateful, and
honored is how Laela Schenck described being named the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast Youth of the Year.
    “Another opportunity through the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast,” Schenck said.”I am so grateful to have been able to share my story and testimony. I’m honored to be chosen as the youth of the year and still a little in shock. All jokes aside, the club has truly made an impact on my life and has played such a huge role in who I am today. I’m forever grateful and blessed.”
Schenck, of the Forest Heights Unit, was chosen from a field
of six other candidates, which included Marquis Brister of the East Biloxi Unit; Zakyra Showers of the IP Center at North Bay; Darrian Williams of the Forest Heights Unit; Aniyah Jones of the 19th Street Unit; Jarienne Jackson of the Qatar Center in Pass Christian; and Lee A’rie Simms of the Hancock County Unit.
Schenck said the Boys & Girls Clubs provided an
after-school and summer program not only for her and the other nominees but also for her siblings. “It feels so amazing just to see how many people came out to support the Boys and Girls Clubs,” she said. “It’s just inspiring. It’s amazing.”
As the organization’s winner, Schenck receives a $1,500 educational scholarship and will represent the Boys & Girls Clubs
of the Gulf Coast at the Mississippi Youth of the Year event in February.
For more than 70 years, the national program has honored
and celebrated the most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys and stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence, and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle.
The announcement was made in October during the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast’s 55th annual meeting and Youth of the Year competition held at the Great Southern Club in Gulfport. The luncheon featured Lonnie Johnson as the keynote speaker.
Johnson, a Mobile native, is a former Air Force and NASA engineer and inventor of the Super Soaker, a top-selling water toy. He spoke to the crowd about determination.
“It is about perseverance,” Johnson said. “And the disheartening thing is that, when you come up with a really different idea that’s unique, most people won’t get it. They won’t see the vision that you see. And the only way to make it a reality is to persevere. You understand better than anybody what the potential could be.”
Other Nominees
         Aniyah Jones. Darrian Williams. Lee A’rie Simms. Zakyra Showers. Marquis Brister. Jarienne Jackson.
 16 | December 2022 | SOUTH MISSISSIPPI Living

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