Posted: March 20th, 2017
When Zakiyah Walker began her application for the annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis Youth of the Year Competition she shared "Don’t fear failure, fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today."
Next week, March 27-29th, Zakiyah will travel to Nashville to represent Memphis at the State Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year Competition. Youth of the Year is the highest award available in the Boys & Girls Clubs organization. Six exemplary members from each Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis competed in interviews in the categories of: My Club Experience, My Vision for America’s Youth, and My Personal Brand. Community leaders representing branches of industry and philanthropy evaluated the students based on these categories, their poise, and public speaking ability.
Zakiyah is a senior at The Soulsville Charter School where she excels in AP classes while being a member of the volleyball team and working a part-time job at the local skating rink. Zakiyah comes from a family of seven and has been attending the John Dustin Buckman Boys & Girls Clubs for the past three years. She plans to attend Howard University in the fall.
Zakiyah was asked to share about her Club Experience, “…That day, my sister and I decided to go in. I remember saying to myself, ‘So this is where all of the children hide.’ We were greeted with smiles and treated like a Club member the very first day…There was something about the Boys & Girls Club that kept drawing us there: there was always activities for us to do. When school started back, I had a place to go where I could use the computers and finish my homework, and there was always someone there to help me. When I started going to the Boys & Girls Club, I had just joined the Varsity Volleyball team at my school. I was excited to know that the Club actually had volleyballs to play.”
At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, she appreciates the helpful and supportive environment to assist her with her homework and improve her grades. She participated in a six week healthy cooking class where she went from “a professional peanut butter and jelly sandwich maker” to a pretty good chef that has her own recipe book ready to assist her in continuing her healthy eating habits in college. Zakiyah is also active in community volunteer projects such as packing food boxes with MIFA and a clean-up day at the Bickford Community Center. She enjoys mentoring and being a positive role model for the younger members, especially when she has the chance to help them with their homework. She gets pleasure from seeing the self-realization children have when they finally comprehend the answers.
The purpose of the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year Contest is to select a student who exemplifies the mission of the organization and to serve as a spokesperson. Each club representative received a gift from Kendra Scott Jewelry and a Kindle to help with their studies.
Zakiyah said, “The Boys & Girls Club is a place to grow, a place to help others grow, a place full of-opportunities.”
Thank you to this year’s community partners that served as judges for the evening:
- Tony Atkins of Fox 13 Memphis
- Sam Cantor of Kiwanis Club of Memphis
- Jon Campbell of New Memphis Institute
- Noel Fenderson of My Town Movers
- Tammy LoCascio of First Tennessee
- Veronica Mora of AutoZone
- Evangeline Parker of Comcast
- Sherri Parker of Orion Federal Credit Union
- Jeremy Pierre of Fox 13 Memphis
2017 Youth of the Year Contestants:
- Jalesa Wallace, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School, representing the Porter Goodwill Club
- Dakayla King, a freshmen at Southwind High School, representing the Bernal E. Smith Sr. Branch
- Michael Grady, a senior at Hollis F. Price Middle College, representing the Technical Training Center
- Paris Horton, a senior at Memphis Business Academy High, representing the Sycamore View Club
- Shanice White, a senior at Kingsbury High School, representing the Ira Samelson Jr. Club
To hear from Zakiyah and her fellow Youth of the Year candidates about their experiences at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis and what it means to each of them watch our Youth of the Year video:
Learn more about Zakiyah by reading her essays on her Club Experience and Personal Brand.
For media inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact
Mandy Powell, VP of Development & External Affairs at mandyp [at] bgcm [dot] org or 901.278.2947