Emi McGonegal, left, works as a junior counselor at the club April 1.

Emi McGonegal, left, works as a junior counselor at the club April 1.

Photo provided by the Boys and Girls Club of Troy and Susan McGonegal

Boys and Girls Club of Troy names Youth of the Year

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 10, 2019


TROY — When Tom and Susan McGonegal adopted Emilse “Emi,” now a senior at Athens High School, and her two biological brothers — Sam, now 14, and Will, now 12 — from Guatemala when she was 9, Emi said she felt like she didn’t fit in.

“I didn’t speak English,” Emi said. “I was intimidated in a new country and in a new family.”

She’s been a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Troy for six years now.

“You just go in there, (and) they (the staff) build up your confidence,” she said. “They’re a second family.”

“We strive to be that place for kids. It was great to see her growth and to see her grow up through the leadership program,” said Jim Adams, the director of the Boys and Girls Club of Troy.

Emi was named the 2019 Youth of the Year for the club, an award that recognizes “sound character, leadership skills and willingness to give back to the community,” according to the organization’s website.

Adams said it was also a great opportunity for the other members of the club to learn from Emi’s experience.

Emi said her favorite parts of the club are the people who work there and hanging out with her friends.

“You can go to them (the staff) and talk about anything. Being there, you make a lot of friends. They (staff) help you out in life and open doors to the future. The friendships there last forever.”

Emi said she’s made friends there from different schools. She plans to work as a junior counselor at the center this summer before attending Oakland Community College in the fall.

Emi said she plans to pursue a degree in elementary education at Oakland University.

She’s worked the last two years as a senior staffer at the Boys and Girls Club.

Susan McGonegal said it has been great to see Emi’s confidence develop over the last few years.

“The staff is great. She’s (Emi) not sitting at home playing video games or watching TV.”

Emi must walk past her house after school to go to the club.

“She can walk home,” Emi’s mother said. “She chooses to go there.”

Emi will now compete against members of other Boys and Girls Clubs in the state for the Michigan Youth of the Year title and a $5,000 college scholarship, courtesy of program sponsors, which include Disney and Toyota.