State and Military Youth of the Years announced at the Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs annual breakfast event in Phoenix

Marena Sever and Dylan Bradley Voy were awarded state Youth of the Year honors at the annual Breakfast organized by the Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and presented by Fiesta Bowl Charities on Tuesday, March 27 at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

Sever, from Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, was named the 2018 Arizona State Youth of the Year. Voy, from Luke AFB Youth Program, received the 2018 Arizona State Military Youth of the Year top honors.

Selected from a field of 10 candidates from Clubs around the state, Sever and Voy each were awarded $5,000 in scholarships and will go on to compete at the regional level in their respective categories. Regional winners will go on to Washington, D.C., with the chance of being named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year.

“At the Club, I was able to leave my problems at the door,” said Sever, speaking of her 10 years as a member. “Without the Club, I wouldn’t have had the stability I needed, I wouldn’t have my love for the arts, and I wouldn’t have any of the close friendships I have developed there.”

Voy thanked his parents for the role they played in his life, rescuing him from birth parents with a drug addiction. He added, “I thank (Club staff) for their everlasting contributions to my character as a person. This has proved to me that if you want it with all your heart, no matter what position you may be in, it will come in a nice form of newfound hope and all you have to do is grab it.”

Also at the Breakfast, Attorney General Mark Brnovich praised the work and impact of Boys & Girls Clubs in the state. “Whatever the issues are, I believe that we have an obligation to create an environment where kids‑-the next generation‑-can be safe and productive,” said Brnovich. “Arizona Boys & Girls Clubs provide a truly great environment for tomorrow’s leaders to be successful.”

“Youth of the Year showcases what our Clubs are all about and it reminds each of us just how incredible the young people are when given the opportunity and the ability to reach for their dreams,” said Bruce Suppes, Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs Board President. “The goal of the Alliance is to bring to the forefront the issues facing kids today and how the Clubs are an integral part of the solution.”

Dr. Christine Wilkinson, Senior Vice President and Secretary of Arizona State University, provided the keynote address encouraging all youth to pursue higher education. “The investment of your time and effort will and does pay off,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “A college degree is the single most important determining factor in improving socioeconomic mobility.”

All of the candidates previously competed at local levels to represent their home Club and then their Boys & Girls Club organization before moving on to the state competition. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth of the Year Program is a premier youth development recognition experience celebrating academic success, examples of leadership and overall Club involvement. Teens prepared three essays, participated in multiple rounds of interviews with panels of judges and delivered a three-minute speech highlighting their Club experience.

Youth of the Year judges included Maria Brink, Toyota; Peggy Eyanson, Fiesta Bowl; Trisha Smith, Topgolf and Christopher Wright, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

The 10 Arizona State Youth of the Year candidates and the Clubs they represent are:

ANDREW J. ASHBECK, Davis-Monthan AFB Youth Program

KYMANI BLEDSOE, Boys & Girls Clubs of Casa Grande Valley

NATHAN GAUTHIER, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sierra Vista

LEANDRIA P. GENE, Boys & Girls Clubs of Flagstaff

BAHATI JACKSON, Boys & Girls of Tucson

CYRUS MARTINEZ, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix

PRINCESSA ORONA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Aha Macav

TYLER RUOF, Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley

MARENA SEVER, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale