It was an exciting day of interviews and celebration, as eight eager high school students converged in Dallas on June 11 as finalists to be the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Southwest Youth of the Year winner.
National Youth of the Year is BGCA’s premier leadership program for Club members who demonstrate academic success; good character and citizenship; and living a healthy lifestyle while overcoming personal obstacles.
Nominations begin at the Club and continue through the state, regional, and national levels. Participants are chosen on local and state levels, with five regional winners meeting each September in Washington, D.C., to compete for the National Youth of the Year title.
Judges for this year’s Southwest regional competition included TMNA’s Norm Bafunno.
Celebrating with the finalists and their families was a large showing of support from Toyota team members, including BGCA National Trustees Mike Groff, TFS’ President and CEO, Karen Ideno, Vice President of Product, Marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Communications, and former National finalist Brooke Grand, who is interning at TFS for the summer and hopes to start a career here.
“At Toyota, we encourage people to ‘Start Your Impossible.’ We want to inspire everyone to dream big and to believe that with humility, hard work, and a never-give-up, can-do attitude, you can achieve more than you thought possible,” said Karen. “We’re so excited to see these young people ‘starting their impossible’ and we’re honored to play a role in getting them there.”
Toyota has invested nearly $25 million in youth development programs for Boys & Girls Club youth since becoming the “Signature sponsor” of the Youth of the Year program in 2014. And for the past seven years, Toyota has donated brand new Corollas to National Youth of the Year winners, along with financial support to offset the costs of vehicle ownership. This year will be no exception.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to show what I’m capable of and what Boys & Girls Clubs of America is capable of,” said 16-year-old Erynn Rider from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, who was chosen as Southwest Military Youth of the Year. “I’m proud to show the positivity they bring into kids’ lives.”
“I’m very grateful to be provided this once in a lifetime opportunity and I look forward to continuing my journey,” said 17-year-old Malichi Haynes from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, and this year’s Southwest Youth of the Year.
In addition to celebrating the accomplished teens, BGCA awarded Toyota with its prestigious Chairman’s Award, presented annually to recognize a corporation or foundation that has placed service above self and made a positive difference in the lives of children.
Mike Groff, Toyota Financial Services’ President and CEO and BGCA National Trustee, accepted the award for Toyota on June 11 at the annual Southwest Youth of the Year Celebration. Past Chairman’s Award winners in the Southwest Region include Texas Instruments, the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T, and Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
“Together, we’ve aligned our organizations to make a powerful impact on the lives of young people,” Groff said of the 10-year partnership Toyota has had with BGCA. “We work to close the opportunity gap for our nation’s youth—ensuring that potential isn’t defined by a zip code. And, together, it is our top priority to build tomorrow’s leaders, through programs like Youth of the Year.”
Toyota has also given $3.2 million in scholarships to BGCA, and 400 Toyota team members serve as mentors to BGCA youth, donating over 30,000 hours of their time since 2010. Last year, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, TFS and its partners at Gulf States Toyota and Gulf States Financial Services donated 32 vehicles to impacted clubs.