Athens senior honored as Boys & Girls Club Troy Youth of the Year

$5,000 college scholarship available to state youth winner

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published March 27, 2021

 Troy Athens High School senior Ian Clark, 17, was selected as the 2021 Boys & Girls Club of Troy Youth of the Year.

Troy Athens High School senior Ian Clark, 17, was selected as the 2021 Boys & Girls Club of Troy Youth of the Year.

Photo provided by JoAnne Gurley

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TROY — When Troy Athens High School senior Ian Clark, 17, first started attending programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Troy more than 10 years ago, he admits he was a troubled little kid.

To some, like Boys & Girls Club of Troy CEO Jeff Evans, Clark was the quiet kid who slowly became involved in more activities and leadership roles.

Now as Clark prepares to finish his senior year and attend college at Lawrence Technological University, where he’ll study civil engineering, he has a new accolade to add to his resume. Clark has been chosen as the Troy Boys & Girls Club 2021 Youth of the Year.

“I used to get into fights, but every time one of the staff sat down with me and talked to me about what I did wrong and how I could do better, it built this type of character in me where I have so much respect for myself and (now) know what I can do to have an impact on these younger kids now that I work there, and improve how they react to situations and how they act,” he said.

Clark said he’s honored to be selected as this year’s award recipient. He wasn’t surprised by the announcement. “For me, it’s incredible, because I’ve been going there so long. I met my best friends there. I’ve learned so much about this place, and it feels great that after I’ve given back so much, they’re giving back to me.”

Evans said it was an easy decision to pick Clark as this year’s local youth award winner. “As far as his character, it’s top-notch. He’s a great kid. The younger kids look up to him. He’s a role model for them, the way he carries himself. He’s a responsible kid, and he’s really someone that’s great to have here for the younger kids to look up to,” he said.

Clark joins hundreds of teens from across the state and thousands across the country who have been recognized for their sound character, leadership skills, volunteerism and civic engagement. He will face other students in the state, through writing and public speaking assignments, for a chance to win a $5,000 college scholarship and be named the Michigan Youth of the Year.

The top five regional Youth of the Year winners and one national military youth winner will have the opportunity to attend a Boys & Girls Club of America National Youth of the Year gala where the award-winning teens have a chance to meet the president.

Whether students win or not, Evans believes there are lessons to take away from the experience. “It’s extremely competitive,” he said about the state, regional and national award levels. “Not only are there a lot of really good candidates, but even if you don’t win, just going through the process and having to do that public speaking and put your thoughts on paper, it’s really beneficial for the kids, just being part of the process.”

For Clark, however, winning would mean everything. It’s the best way he feels he could reenergize the lower-than-normal morale at the club since the pandemic hit.

“It would mean the world,” he said. “It’s the best I could do for them to give back to them and put some respect on the club’s name. ... (I) want to be better than all the clubs in Michigan. (I) want to have an impact all throughout Michigan.”

Throughout Clark’s 10 years with the club, he’s grown from a member to a junior staffer and now a staff member. He’s held leadership roles in the club’s Keystone and Torch clubs, and has volunteered with the club’s Adopt-A-Road cleanup efforts. Clark found his passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics through the club.

Being a leader at the club has filled Clark with many memories he won’t forget as he moves into the next chapter. “I stay up at night and think about this stuff. The last day of summer this girl came up to me and cried, because it was the last day of the summer program. That’s always going to stay in my heart,” he said.

“Now that I’m older, I’ve seen all the stuff staff have done for me, and how I’ve improved from the little kid I used to be. It feels good I can make an impact on someone else the way other staff made an impact on me.”

It’s never been difficult for Clark to assume the mantle of a participant or a staff member, Evans added.

“It’s difficult, especially for someone who’s been here for so long to separate themselves from being a member and a participant in our program to a staff type of role. Some of our kids struggle with that, and (Clark) has done a great job. When it’s time for him to work, he’s a staff member first; even though he has friends and peers here he’s able to make that separation, and that’s a sign of his maturity.”

The most important lesson Clark said he’ll continue to carry with him from the club has been the importance of self-motivation.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Club of Troy, visit bgctroy.org.

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