Scotch Plains Teen Named 2011 Youth Of The Year

SCOTCH PLAINS – Recently selected as the 2011 Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County Youth of the Year at a special recognition dinner, Bria Barnes, 17, of Scotch Plains is a true example of extraordinary youth.

Barnes of the Elizabeth Club is among hundreds of local youth across the country recognized by Boys & Girls Clubs of America for their sound character, leadership skills and willingness to give back to the community. The 2011 Union County nominees also included Victoria Carden, Plainfield Club and Tayla Lassiter, Union Club.


The Union County Youth of the Year winner receives a $1000 scholarship to pursue their post secondary education and will compete against other local Boys & Girls Club winners in the state for the New Jersey Youth of the Year title on May 24 in Trenton. Each state candidate receives $1500, the top 3 receive $5000, and the State winner receives a $20,000 scholarship and goes on to compete for the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year. Five regional winners travel to Washington, D.C., in September to compete for the title of BGCA’s National Youth of the Year. The National winner receives an additional $15,000 college scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States in an Oval Office ceremony.

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 effort and contributions by a club member to their family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as having overcome personal challenges and obstacles. “The Reader’s Digest Foundation has been the proud sponsor of the Youth of the Year program for over 60 years,” said Susan Fraysse Russ, executive director, Reader’s Digest Foundation. “We are thrilled that we can honor amazing teens like Bria for their dedication and hard work.”

A senior at Scotch Plains / Fanwood High School where she maintains a 3.8 GPA, Barnes has shown consistent effort in making education her priority and keeping her life on a positive track. She is generous with her sincere smile, humble demeanor and considerate nature and is always willing to share her knowledge in a caring and courteous manner.

The Boys & Girls Club has been a very important part of Barnes’ life. She has been involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County for 10 years, circulating through the Clubs from Plainfield to Union to Elizabeth, which she now refers to as her second home. She has participated in Power Hour, Torch Club, Money Matters, Stand & Deliver, and Keystone Club programs. Barnes’ passion is helping others, which is why she plans on entering a nursing program at the University of Delaware, Rutgers University, Ramapo College or the College of NJ.

Barnes sees herself becoming a registered nurse. “I really enjoy helping others and I take steps each day to reach this goal by getting good grades, volunteering at local hospitals, tutoring younger members and seizing every opportunity to learn something new,” stated Barnes. “As the 2011 Youth of the Year for Union County, I will continue to share the message that knowledge truly is power and the key to taking advantage of the opportunities that life presents.”

“Bria’s passion for selflessly helping her community is inspiring while her commitment to her education, and supporting her family 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.”

To be considered for the title, Club members must write an essay and complete a face-to-face interview with a panel of judges, comprised of community leaders and several members of the BGCUC Board of Directors. This year’s panel was headed by Timothy Williams, the Community Outreach Manager, Mid-Atlantic Region, for the event’s premier sponsor, Elizabethtown Gas. They actively support local youths through their companywide V-Force employee volunteer program. Additional judges included: Nicholas Miceli – Central Region Market President, TD Bank; Emilio Ramil – Branch Manager, TD Bank; Roberta Miles – Manager Customer Care & Services, Verizon Communications; Wendy Cama – Partner, Crowe Horwath LLP; Ellen McHenry – Senior Director of Financial Programs, UCEDC; Bernie Moriarty – Vice President & Grants Administrator, Hyde & Watson Foundation.

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), Sportsman of the Year, People Respecting Others (P.R.O.) and SPIRIT Awards. They included:

  • ELIZABETH: Camille Jeannot – Buddie of the Year; Kevan Sims – Junior of the Year; Sportsman of the Year – Justin Phillips; Ja’Don Taylor – P.R.O. Award; Ja’nae Morales – SPIRIT Award
  • PLAINFIELD: Aniyah Cox – Buddie of the Year; Alero Buwa – Junior of the Year; Troy Dorsey – Sportsman of the Year; Steven Carmona – P.R.O. Award; Ichrak Faida – SPIRIT Award
  • ROSELLE: Harrison Elementary School: Amel Ouji – SPIRIT Award; Dr. Charles C. Polk Elementary School – Jilani Skinner – P.R.O. Award; Washington Elementary School – Asia Lyons – Buddie of the Year; Leonard V. Moore Middle School – Kyani Ashley-Robinson – Sportsman of the Year; Grace Wilday Middle School – Zinnaya Mercado – Junior of the Year
  • HILLSIDE: AP Morris – Chinelo Chigozie-Nwosu – Buddie of the Year; AP Morris 2nd Grade Annex – Adrianna Benn – P.R.O. Award; Calvin Coolidge – Junior of the Year – Malcolm Wiggins-Hawkins; George Washington – Sportsman of the Year – Adrian Nole-Mazur; Hurden Looker – SPIRIT Award – Kenechukwu Adibe
  • UNION: Giovanna Vilela – Buddie of the Year; Mekhi Bryant – Junior of the Year; Natalia Rincon – Sportsperson of the Year; Nila Addo – P.R.O. Award; Hannah Bradbury – SPIRIT Award

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County, which operates facilities in Union, Roselle, Plainfield, Elizabeth and Hillside, serve over 7500 children a year. They seek to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential and have provided opportunity for youth since 1955. They are part of a national network of some 4,000 neighborhood-based facilities, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which serves more than 4.6 million young people annually, in all 50 states and on U.S. military bases worldwide.

Known as “The Positive Place for Kids,” the Clubs provide guidance-oriented character development programs on a daily basis for children 6-18 years old, conducted by a full-time professional staff. Key Boys & Girls Club programs emphasize leadership development, education and career exploration, financial literacy, health and life skills, the arts, sports, fitness and recreation, and family outreach. To find out more,  visit

(L to R) Sal Dovi – BGCUC Chief Operating Officer: Bria Barnes – BGCUC Youth of the Year Winner 2011; Robert J. Genovese, Attorney at Law & President – BGCUC Board of Directors; Russell Triolo – BGCUC, Chief Executive Officer (Photo Credit: Tyrone Barnes)

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