Youth of the Year

 Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln Youth of the Year, Emily Jacobson

BGCA Youth of the Year Program
     BGCA Youth of the Year Program promotes and celebrates service to Club, community and family; academic performance; moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability. 

The Youth of the Year program is most effective when used as a year-round tool for fostering young people’s character, personal growth and leadership qualities. Local Clubs recognize members ages 14-18 who were Youths of the Month and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competition. 

State winners, who each receive $1,000 scholarships, participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive an engraved plaque and a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. 

The National Youth of the Year receives an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.
"My Club Experience"
(Written by Emily Jacobson)

    Wearing a Penguins Swim Team cap for the very last time at league championships, I finished my leg of the freestyle relay and wanted to throw my arms around my best friend and teammate once she climbed out of the pool after finishing our relay race.

So many times within the past year, I had looked at her and said, “one day we will no longer be part of this team” and here we were, together at the end. Yet, wasn’t it just yesterday when we swam together in Girls 9-10 Age Group? She is not really into hugs, but I hugged her all the same, and for the third time in the ten years I have known her she hugged me back.

The final day of being part of the Boys &Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln (BGCCL) Penguins Swim Team had arrived much more quickly than I had ever expected and the life lessons that I learned at BGCCL were much greater than I had ever dreamed.

My 13 years as a BGCCL member gave me opportunities to gain responsibility, confidence, interests, leadership skills and a sense of belonging.

My membership at the BGCCL started with a simple goal: in 2003, my parents signed me up for swim lessons so I would not drown silently as a youngster at our Rhode Island ocean beaches. After years of lessons, in 2009, and with my first BGCCL friend (and my best friend of the opening story), I joined the Penguins Swim Team.

Together we spent eight years perfecting our strokes and becoming the strong swimmers we are today. As the years passed, my level of involvement and responsibilities on the team increased; the older kids were my role models. By high school, I was volunteering to help teach BGCCL swim lessons. On Penguins, I helped younger kids get ready for their races, taught them to cheer for their teammates, helped lead the team in our famous pre-meet “super great” cheer, and this year served as assistant coach at league championships for the younger age groups.

The hugely positive experience I had on the club’s team led to a successful high school varsity swim career where I medaled in State and Division championships, served as a Swim Team Captain during my senior year, and helped my team win the Division Championship in 2015. In addition, last summer I was employed as a lifeguard and assistant coach for a summer swim league team at a private swim club, and I am currently employed as a swim lesson teacher at the BGCCL.

I am thrilled to work with youngsters in this capacity and so pleased to promote the BGCCL swim team program to my students and their parents; in this way I feel I am giving back to the BGCCL. I am also looking to pursue a NCAA Division III college swim career and have been recruited at four universities. In these ways, the BGCCL swim program along with its dedicated and knowledgeable staff helped me to find a life’s passion for the sport of swimming; I am grateful for that and for the many leadership experiences, employment opportunities, sense of community, success, and belonging that accompanied my years in the club.

I also learned about facing adversity at BGCCL. First and most personally, my mom has had multiple surgeries and long recovery periods during the past several years. During these difficult times, the BGCCL served as a home away from home for me and my sister who is also a Penguins teammate.

The uncertainty that we faced in our daily lives was countered by the constant kindness of the staff at the club and the trust we had in our coaches and teammates. It also instilled in me the value of physical exercise as I realized that daily swim practice was an outlet for stress. I learned the importance of taking care of oneself mentally and physically and this helped me grow into the healthy and strong individual I am today.

Secondly, the BGCCL swim team program underwent adversity in 2013 when our beloved coaches left suddenly and our swim team went from 100+ swimmers to 20 in the next season. The BGCCL hired new staff and the team learned again to become a supportive family, to take pride in our tiny team, and to swim our hearts out to make the club and coaches proud.

To the BGCCL’s credit, these important themes of the swim team were not sacrificed in the drive to rebuild the program. The hard work of the coaches inspired the swimmers at league championships this year to place a respectable 5th in the league. We gave our all just as the club has given us its all over the years.

I am forever indebted to my coaches and I owe it all to the BGCCL for giving me coaches and a team that I am proud to call my family. In this way, I learned that the BGCCL, no matter what happens, will always be a resource for me.

Moreover, at my time at the club, I have seen the core beliefs of the Boys and Girls Club of America come to life. The BGCCL provided me with a safe place to learn and grow; I learned how to be supportive to my friends and teammates. The confidence I gained while working to improve my swim race times strengthened my character, and I became Captain of a high school team and High School Student Council President.

From coaches and my job as a swim teacher, I learned patience and listening skills. The club also encouraged me to respect and to be respected by adult professionals. My coaches guided me more than just in swim; they are there when I need someone to talk to about school or life and I know they will be a resource even through my college years. Thinking about the club now, I know that there will never come a day when I am no longer a part of this family. Everything I learned here, I will carry through college and the rest of my life. The club will remain my second home, a safe place where I know I will always be welcome.

I will forever be indebted to the club for the confidence and opportunities I found here. I will forever remember the BGCCL as the place where I fell in love with swimming and as the place where I met my best friend who always be there for me. I cannot imagine being the person I am today without the BGCCL; thank you, Boys & Girls Club of America, for all of the opportunities, experiences, and connections I have made with the kind people I have met these past thirteen years.
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