Before a panel of five judges on December 5, two of three teens nominated to compete for the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck’s (BGCNN) highest honor, delivered speeches, answered questions and spoke about the impact membership has had on their lives.
One of the two will represent the Club at a Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) conference in the spring where BGCNN will be among the 19 clubs in Virginia hoping that their selected entrant will be chosen to represent Virginia—first at a Southeast regional competition later in the year and potentially at a national competition to follow.
Trinity Balderson and Shauna Clayton are both seniors at Lancaster High School who have strived for academic success and are college bound. Balderson plans to be a social worker and will study first at Rappahannock Community College and then transfer to Radford University.
“The club has helped me achieve my goals,” said Balderson. “It has given me resources, pushed me to believe in myself; helped me with tools, motivation and guidance.”
Clayton wants to be a psychologist and has been accepted to Mary Baldwin College.
“The club has helped me see things outside the box,” she aid. “I was really shy when I first came here and the club has helped me get over that. And being a counselor to some of the kids has helped me know that I want to be a psychologist.”
After two months of preparation under the guidance of volunteer coaches—BGCNN past president Donna Anderson for Balderson and ODU professor Dr. Dana Burnett for Clayton, they were ready to compete. Judging the three-minute speeches each had prepared and posing a number of questions established by BGCA, were Lancaster County Sheriff Patrick McCranie, Northumberland County Sheriff Doc Lyons, Bethune-Cookman University former president Dr. Edison Jackson, Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury human resources director Dr. Wanda Wallin, and BGCNN board president Shawn Lamb.
In front of each judge was a score card developed by BGCA. Club operations director Jonathan Putt was tasked with counting the points.
“In the 20-plus years that I have been associated with the Youth of the Year competition, this was the closest score I’ve ever seen. I had to count three times to be certain. Shauna Clayton earned the greater number of points but we consider that both girls are winners. Just being selected as a finalist out of over 400 club members is quite an honor,” said Putt.
“Because this competition was so close, we will send both girls to the state conference so that they can meet their peers from around the state and benefit from the experience,” said executive director Phillip Mumford. “We are very pleased that Trinity says she looks forward to accompanying Shauna and helping her if needed.”