“My story will not sound unique to many African-American males,” explains Tyler Merriweather, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) Southeast Youth of the Year. “A single-parent home; economically below the poverty level; watching my mother struggle financially; going days without food and lights. But it is my story.”
Tyler knew early on that he did not want to be a statistic when he grew up, and began to lay the groundwork for a bright and successful future.
Over the past five years, Tyler has been an active participant of Boys & Girls Clubs of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa, taking advantage of several Club programs; including Passport to Manhood, which fosters responsibility in Club boys, and SMART Moves, a prevention and education program that promotes healthy choices. Looking beyond his own personal development, Tyler has worked hard to encourage more teens to participate in Club activities, and helped the staff design and implement programs that would interest his peers. With the valuable leadership skills that Tyler gained from these experiences, and his natural charisma, confidence, and poise, he took on the challenging task of serving as a spokesperson for his Club; addressing local businesses on its behalf, and representing the teens of his community in presentations to the county commission, city council, and school board.
Last year, after a tornado devastated his hometown, Tyler immediately took action. Coordinating with his teachers and various community agencies, Tyler helped organize a relief operation in the school gym. He then worked with FEMA and other organizations, providing input for a long-term disaster relief plan.
Having graduated high school as an honor student with a 3.9 grade point average, Tyler is now studying accounting and management at the University of Alabama. He attributes much of what he’s achieved to his mentors at the Club, and the important lessons about leadership and perseverance he’s learned there. “It is because of my Boys & Girls Club that I am a first-generation college student,” Tyler says. “With each endeavor I make, each obstacle I overcome, it will always be a skill, idea, or personal philosophy learned at my Club that allows me to move forward and achieve greatness.”
Toyota Financial Services is a proud sponsor of Pacific Youth of the Year and the National Youth of the Year dinners where TFS awards more than $70,000 in Toyota scholarships, and a new Toyota vehicle to the National Youth of the Year winner. Tyler received more than $2,500 in scholarship money, which was raised through the TFS Brand Story contest. The TFS Brand Story Contest gives our associates the opportunity to acknowledge extraordinary and everyday moments where they witness fellow associates delivering an experience that exemplifies the TFS Brand. These stories help our associates visualize a TFS brand culture that builds strong relationships and creates loyalty through extraordinary customer service. For every Brand Story that is submitted, TFS contributes $10 directly to the Youth of the Year program supporting youth in every state. This year more than 2,150 associates contributed 7,444 stories.