Elizabeth Teen Named 2008 Youth Of The Year

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UNION—Recently selected as the 2008 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County, Amirah Beeks, 18, of Elizabeth, is a true example of extraordinary youth. A member of the Elizabeth Boys & Girls Club, Beeks will receive a $1,000 scholarship and will go on to compete against other Boys & Girls Club members for the New Jersey Youth of the Year title and an additional $20,000 scholarship. The 2008 Union County Youth of the Year Nominees also included Arianna Vinardell from Roselle Park Club; Yasmin Freeman and Mansa El-Amin from Union Club and Ce’Rae Tyler from Plainfield.

The Youth of the Year program, which is administered by Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and has been nationally sponsored by the Reader’s Digest Foundation since 1947, recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as personal challenges and obstacles overcome.

“The Reader’s Digest Foundation has been the proud sponsor of the Youth of the Year program for 60 years,” said Susan Fraysse Russ, executive director, Reader’s Digest Foundation. “We are thrilled that we can honor amazing teens like Amirah for their dedication and hard work.”

Dedicated, passionate and sporting the courage of a lion, Beeks is a role model for her peers. A senior at Elizabeth High School Upper Academy, where she has achieved a 3.8 GPA, she has shown consistent effort in keeping her life on a positive track while working to contribute to the household income, and doing community service that includes volunteering at food banks, soup kitchens and “Adopting a Grandparent.”

She hopes to attend Hampton University and major in child psychology. She is a two year member of the Elizabeth Boys & Girls Club where she has been vice president of the Keystone Club, a chartered small group leadership development club for young people ages 14-18.

“My deepest fear is the maelstrom of violence, drugs, and gangs would rapidly increase in the local school systems leaving my hometown with no chance of survival. But I will not allow this to happen,” said Beeks. “As the 2008 Youth of the Year for Union County, I look forward to igniting the fire that burns deep in my heart which represents change in my community.”

“Amirah’s passion for making a change in her community and selflessly helping others is inspiring while her commitment to her education, supporting her family, community and Club is exemplary, She is a very special young lady,” said Russell Triolo, chief executive officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County. “She is thoroughly deserving of this honor.”

If Beeks wins at the state level, she will then go on to compete for the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year. Five regional winners will then travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for the title of BGCA’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year receives an additional $15,000 college scholarship and will be installed by President George W. Bush during a ceremony in the Oval Office.

To be considered for the title, club members are first nominated by club staff and then must apply, write an essay and complete a face-to-face interview with a panel of judges, comprised of community leaders. This year’s panel was headed by Timothy Williams, community outreach manager, Mid-Atlantic Region, for the event’s premier sponsor, Elizabethtown Gas, which supports local youths through their company wide V-Force employee volunteer program. Additional judges included Dr. Jose Adames, provost, Union County College, Plainfield Campus; Doug Nelson, president, Kean University Foundation; Nadine Brechner, executive director of Trinitas Health Foundation; Don Carter, Elizabethtown Gas; Bonnie Hermann, Union County Department of Human Services; and Kevin Lynott, director of governmental affairs, Elizabethtown Gas.

Also honored at this year’s event were club members in the categories of Buddie of the Year (ages 6-9), Junior of the Year (ages 10-13), and Sportsman of the Year. They included:

PLAINFIELD: Buddie of the Year – Keyanna Bagley; Junior of the Year – Imani Mutyanda; Sportsman of the Year – Batin Miller.

ROSELLE PARK: Buddie of the Year – Michael Lopez; Junior of the Year – Isaiah Chestnut; Sportsman of the Year- Jericho Gloria.

ROSELLE: Buddie of the Year – Helisoa Randriamanana, Ashline Castillo, Kiyah Rivera, and Talure Watson; Junior of the Year – Jazmine Colon; Sportsman of the Year - Antonio Crespo and Aroniana Randraimanana.

UNION: Buddie of the Year – Isis Towns; Junior of the Year – Shane Bond; Sportsman of the Year – Jonathan Bresil.

ELIZABETH: Buddie of the Year- Naniyah McClain; Junior of the Year- Janae Morales.

Pictured left to right are Arianna Vinardell, YOY Finalist, Roselle Park; Don Carter, General Manager & Vice President of Elizabethtown Gas/Youth of the Year Premier Sponsor and Judge; Ce’Rae Tyler YOY Finalist, Plainfield; Amirah Beeks, Youth of the Year Winner, Elizabeth; Timothy Williams, BGCUC Board Member, YOY Judge and Community Outreach Manager for premier sponsor, Elizabethtown Gas; Mansa El-Amin, YOY Finalist Union; Yasmin Freeman, YOY Finalist Union.


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  • Glynis

    Congratulations! Amirah you deserve this award. I feel your hardwork and am proud to be able to say that you are a roll model for your sisters and brothers and my daughter. Keep up the good work and keep your head high above the clouds. Your mom, I know is proud. Know that when we were coming up we had not a clue about all of these opportunities. Consider yourself blessed. We love you and salute you. Following the words of our Pastor, I know you have been adhering to our motto at Morning Star “Do it at your HIGHEST and BEST”. Keep passing on your torch. We now can keep that hope alive