The Boys & Girls Club of Fond du Lac is thrilled to announce Eltayana Wilson as its 2020-21 Youth of the Year.
Youth of the Year is the Club’s signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world economy. In the 21st-century world and workplace, leadership skills such as communication, goal-setting and teamwork are essential for everyone – especially young people preparing to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. The Youth of the Year award is the most prestigious honor that can be earned at the Club, and the winner must go through an application and interview process to be considered. The award is earned, not just given out, as the Youth of the Year plays an integral role in representing the organization as a whole throughout their year-long reign.
“Eltayana has been coming to the Club for almost 10 years!” said Karissa Schneider, director of operations. “She has been a joy to watch grow up and has always taken advantage of all that the Club offers to her. Through the years she has become a leader at the Club and is currently working as a program staff at the Johnsonville Club. Her big smile, calm demeanor and sense of humor make her someone that people want to be around, especially the youth in her group at the Club.”
Schneider added that Wilson is passionate about helping to stop bullying and makes sure to give all people she encounters a voice and empowers them to speak up. “Eltayana has always been active in giving back to the community both at the Club as she was growing up and now through her church where she is a Sunday school teacher and volunteers at the local food pantry. With the love of her family and the love of the Club, Eltayana has become the embodiment of what a youth of the year should be and we look forward to having her represent the Boys & Girls Club of Fond du Lac throughout the next year,” said Schneider.
Wilson, an 11th-grader at Fond du Lac High School, has been involved in the Boys & Girls Club since second grade and was named Middle School Youth of the Year as a 6th-grader in 2015. She is interested in pursuing a career in special education or social services after she graduates high school next year. When asked what the Club means to her, Wilson said, “To me, Club means opportunity, because no matter what I was doing at Club or how I was participating in different activities, there was always an opportunity to grow as a person. Growing up I went to Club because it felt like home. The staff and my other peers around me made me feel comfortable when no one else really did.”
Reflecting on the Boys & Girls Club values (belonging, growth, responsibility, respect, and safety), Wilson provided some examples of how she lives by these values at Club and in the community. She said, “I grow by always having an open mind when it comes to new things. I’m responsible for myself and my actions. I give respect, but I also stick up for myself. If someone is doing something wrong or being negative, I speak up. See something, say something. I believe everyone should be treated equally and given a fair chance.”
Wilson feels that the biggest challenge for youth today is how they view what it means to “fit in”. She believes this is a challenge because society is telling and showing youth what to wear, how to look, how to sound and even what to eat. “Youth today don’t realize that being the best version of yourself is all that matters. At the Club, I believe we can help youth overcome this by letting them know it is okay to be different and it is okay to be yourself,” said Wilson.
Wilson believes that her outgoing personality makes her a great Youth of the Year because “I am fast to make friends and make people laugh. I am not afraid to speak about things I have gone through in my 16 years of life that could possibly help someone. I also have the ability to listen, which is positive because sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. I truly care about how people are feeling and want everyone to be feeling like they can conquer the world.”
Wilson shared that she has made lifelong friends at the Club who have truly turned into family. “Club has been the only place I felt I actually ‘fit in’ and felt comfortable. Now working as a staff member, Club has changed me and is helping me grow into the person I’m becoming today. It is helping mold me for my future career as a special education teacher. I truly enjoy working with my Club kiddos, being there to hear their stories and putting myself in their shoes when they tell me their problems. All kids need that. Club gave that to me. Club has been and continues to be my family, and I love every minute of it,” said Wilson.